Saturday, July 7, 2012

Record Heat, Wine and War

There comes a point with the weather that I tend to shut down, crawl in a hole and stay there until the situation passes.  Usually this is because of a heavy snow storm in the winter and the time is spent braising something and watching the snow fall through the windows.

In this case things are shut down because of the heat,  four records in the last six days for high temperatures were broken.  Those records were set in 1874. Today is predicted to be the fifth record and they are predicting 105 degrees.  The area has also recorded three records for the highest low temperature for a day - meaning simply that it doesn't cool off at night.

Even the kitchen is shut down because I don't want to add any more heat to the house.  Since most of my wine is consumed with food the wine consumption is also down - one bottle of Riesling lasted four days.

The best thing to do is sit under the ceiling fan and read, and there happened to be a good book that fell into my hands on the recent out of town trip.  Wine & War - the French, The Nazis & The Battle For France's Greatest Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup was published in 2001 but it isn't a book I was familiar with.  This particular copy was in a box of used books and as it turns out it's a copy signed by the authors.

The book is totally fascinating and I had difficulty putting it down.  The book is just what the extended title says - a battle to save France's best wines from being shipped back to Germany during WWII.  For a wine drinker the names are very familiar - Jayer, Drouhin, Huet, Taittinger, Hugel, and Miaihle de Lencqesaing.  Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire, Alsace  all were targeted by the Nazis and all lost considerable portions of their cellars to confiscation.

Totally fascinating the lengths and methods these folks went to and through to protect their wine, and totally tragic how the wine makers were captured, arrested, tortured and killed in the process. 

The authors live in France and did extensive interviews with survivors or descendants of victims and that certainly keeps the book from being dry or dull.    Good stuff here.

 Broadway Books (Random House) 2001.

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