As we celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I in 2018, we recalled the extraordinary acts of heroism, both individual and cultural, which contributed to bringing about the war's conclusion. Reims, France, was literally at the front lines of the war. The two hundred–plus miles of caves below the city, quarried by Romans in the third and fourth centuries ad and adopted for wine production and storage by the champagne industry in modern times, became a place of refuge for the citizens of Reims, as well as for French soldiers heading to and returning from the war. The local people who remained during the war rode out more than a thousand continuous days of bombing by living in the caves, where butchers set up shop, children attended school, Christian worship services were given, and musical concerts took place. Meanwhile, the champagne industry continued to produce wine under incredibly harsh conditions. This article tells the incredible story of survival in the face of the war both for the citizens of Reims and the champagne industry, and how the war contributed to the industry subsequently solving problems that had plagued it for decades.
Life below the Bombing: How the Champagne Caves Saved the City of Reims, France, and Its People during World War I
Karl J. Peterson is a contributing writer to Savoring Gotham (ed. Andrew Franklin Smith, 2015) and The Oxford Companion to Cheese (ed. Dr. Catherine Donnelly, 2016), both published by Oxford University Press. He is also a blogger for The Dairy Free Traveler (http://dairyfreetraveler.com).
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Karl J. Peterson; Life below the Bombing: How the Champagne Caves Saved the City of Reims, France, and Its People during World War I. Gastronomica 1 February 2019; 19 (1): 45–54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2019.19.1.45
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