Title: Champagne: How the World’s most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times.
Author: Don & Petie Kladstrup
Published: November 1, 2005
Final grade: 5/5
You are all probably surprised to see a review from me that isn’t a romance novel. Its not even a fiction novel. This is non-fiction, a walk through the history of the Champagne region. And its not only for wine drinkers, but for history lovers as well.
The couple who wrote this book, Don & Petie Kladstrup, are a pair that love the region of Champagne. They talk about their travels through out the book as it relates to the complex history of the region. They have also written several books about the history, including one about Charles Heidsieck, a man they mention briefly in this book.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It talked around the actual process of champagne instead talking about the people, the area, and the rich history that they all have. I honestly learned more about French involvement in WWI & WWII from this book then my high school history classes.
The book starts with Attila the Hun, who visited the area in 451 CE/AD and continues the tale through to the Great Depression and WWII. Some of the interesting stories include that of Dom Perignon, who despite the legend did not invent sparkling champagne. The legacies of women such as Barbe-Nicole Clicquot and Louise Pommery. How George Washington and Woodrow Wilson both effected Champagne.
One of the stories that sticks with me was the chapter covering early WWI, where Reims, the capital of Champagne, was bombarded with German missiles for over 3 years. The city was utterly destroyed. The Cathedral which had stood for hundreds of years, and had been used for the coronation of French kings (including Louis XIV, perhaps their most famous), was left in ruin. People were forced to evacuate further back from the front lines, or to seek shelter underground in the limestone caves that were transformed into the storage area for champagne. Schools were taught underground, concerts were given underground. For close to 3 years the community had to use the tunnels and caverns and hope the bombs wouldn’t disable the ground and cause cave ins.
So I highly recommend this book, not just to those who want to know more about the history of the wine, but those who want to know the stories of the people who live there.