Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed over War and Hard Times, by Don & Petie Kladstrup, is one of those lovable books that entertain while informing and educating. Despite all the historical facts one learns from reading this book, the contents are not straight-laced or highbrow, but they contain real-life vineyard stories of human interest, the intricacies in the life of champagne as it evolved into the most glamorous drink, and colorful descriptions of the Champagne region.
The history of the Champagne region is conscientiously noted from the First Crusade and the times of the Huns, to the end of World War II, to our day when the writers walk through the Oise-Aisne American cemetery. In this cemetery, the poet Joyce Kilmer is buried as well as many American soldiers and the writers visit a chapel here, inside which the names of fallen soldiers whose bodies were never recovered are carved in marble. Since this region has become so closely connected to US history, reading this book brought its subject even closer to this American’s heart.
Before the First Crusade, Champagne used to be a wool region where wool-trading was the most significant business. With the First Crusade, Champagne region evolved into a hub for trade routes, replacing the quiet countryside that it was earlier. During this time, the church took control of the region, which led to the invention of champagne.
It was the monk Dom Perignon who became the inventor of champagne. Dom Perignon improved wine-making by adding bubbles to the wine through the use of yeast. Those bubbles made Champagne the drink of all history; the oddity was that Dom Perignon, all through his life, tried to find a way to keep the bubbles out of the wine after adding the yeast. Later, Napoleon’s conquering armies introduced this new wine to the world.
Among the most interesting parts of the book for me were the fight over champagne as armies ran over the region and drank up its reserves and supplies, the smuggling of champagne into Russia and the United States during the Prohibition, and the Damascus rose that became the symbol of the region with its image etched–without thorns–into buildings’ façades and printed on anything printable.
The introduction, This Hallowed Soil, reads like poetry at places, and the style of writing and diction is sincere, simple, and relaxed throughout the book. Following the introduction are nine chapters, an epilogue, author notes, bibliography and acknowledgements.
Black and white reproductions of paintings, drawings and photos of the figures important to champagne’s history add a special touch to this 286-page, hardcover book in its middle. The ISBN for the book is 0060737921.
The authors, Don and Petie Kladstrup, are journalists. They have a previous book “Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure,” which was released in 2002. Donald Kladstrup, a foreign correspondent for ABC and CBS television news, is the winner of three Emmys and the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, and Overseas Press Club of America awards for journalism. His wife, Petie Kladstrup, is a freelance writer who writes about France and French life. portland or wine tours