Cellar News

How a German Soldier Saved Bordeaux Wine During World War II

Indulge me for a minute, this post is going to tie in a few threads from different places around the world.  A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the library at

Château Siran

 in Margaux.  I have actually been to a number of libraries in Bordeaux, but this is the first I have ever seen that was behind a bank vault.

The library, as with so many libraries in Bordeaux is impressive, with wines going back to the 1800s and probably some, so faded that you can’t read the labels any more, from even earlier.

I am always overwhelmed by the history in these libraries and all of the stories that these bottles hold.  But, it didn’t occur to me until recently that this history almost didn’t exist.

Last year Kris and I toured a few wineries in Oregon.  One of the wineries we visited was

Domaine Drouhin

, a winery with deep ties to the Burgundy region in France.  While there, in addition to tasting some excellent wines, we picked up a copy of the book Wine & War (available everywhere, and you should read it).  The book talks about the struggles of the French to save their wine and their vineyards during the German occupation of World War II.

Call me a stupid American, but it has never occurred to me during all of my library visits that these libraries should not exist.  Bordeaux was part of occupied France during World War II and the Germans plundered everything from the great art of the Louvre to all of the Champagne in Champagne.  But, Bordeaux remained surprisingly in tact.  A lot of that has to do with

Heinz Bömers

, the German soldier who led the occupation of Bordeaux.

Known locally as the Weinfuhrer Bömer worked with the people of Bordeaux, as much as he could, to ensure that their history would not be plundered and their legacy destroyed.

The book is a fascinating one, and one that I highly encourage reading.  Not just to learn more about Bömer but also the brave Château owners that protected their Jewish friends and persevered to ensure their wine was made even during the darkest of times.