Remembrance Day

A drawing depicting the 1914 harvest under air attack. (Courtesy of Médiathèque, Epernay)

Today’s Remembrance Day ceremonies reminds me of two stories about WWI mentioned in the book, A History of Champagne.

After three years of poor vintages and an extremely low supply of champagne in the cellar, there was a lot of hope riding on the vintage of 1914.  

A young Maurice Pol-Roger decided to pick his grapes two weeks early because of the looming threat of the German invasion of Épernay. He also decided to bring his presses and barrels to the vineyards as the German air attacks made the slow transport of the grapes nearly impossible. He would then move the barrels back to the cellars between bombing raids. In response to those who criticized his decision to pick early, he reportedly said “The 1914 will be the wine to drink with victory”. Luckily his decisions not only prevented the loss of life but his prediction for the wine came true.

Unfortunately the vineyards on the northern side of the Montagne de Reims were already in range of the German artillery, with the vineyards of Pommery in closest proximity. Pickers were in scarce supply, so women, children, elderly men and even wine merchants from Paris all stepped in to pick the grapes. But at a terrible price. Many were killed by German fire, and it was reported that twenty children were lost. But everyone believed the risk was worth salvaging the banner 1914 vintage.

I wonder what I would do in their situation. But Jonas and I don’t have to think in terms of life and death when it comes to our vineyard. For this, on Rememberance Day, I am grateful.