Looking ahead to the 156th Hospices de Beaune wine auction, winemaker Véronique Drouhin recalls how the Hospices de Beaune mother superior saved her grandfather from the Gestapo.

Hiding from the Nazis in the Hospices de Beaune

In the early hours of 7 June 1944, the Gestapo came looking for Véronique’s grandfather Maurice Drouhin. Maurice was the second generation of the Drouhin family, who have been producing premium Burgundy wines since 1880.

‘Maurice was one of the pillars of the French Resistance during World War II, he was the liaison officer for General Douglas McArthur,’ said Jacquie Morrison manager of l’Oenothèque Joseph Drouhin.

‘When the Gestapo had enough evidence that Maurice had been passing on information to the ‘“enemy”, they sent an execution squad to kill him,’ she told Decanter.com.

Thanks to telephone warning, Maurice managed to escape from his bedroom to the Drouhin family cellars. The vaulted cellars cover almost a hectare, an ancient maze of passages sprawling beneath the Duke of Burgundy’s parliament building, dating back to the 13th century.

‘My grandfather knew the wine vaults so well, he found his way through the now famous Door of Freedom which runs to Hospices de Beaune,’ said Véronique.

Nazis in the Hospices de Beaune

The Joseph Drouhin cellars, dating back to the 13th century. Credit: drouhin-oenotheque.com

At this time, Hospices de Beaune was still being run as a charity hospital by Catholic nuns, as it had been since its foundation in 1443.

Maurice himself had been the vice-president of the Hospices, and the Drouhin family had always maintained close ties with the organisation.

‘He was well-known and well-liked’, continued Véronique. ‘So the mother superior agreed to hide him at the Hospices.’

Maurice remained in hiding under the protection of Hospices de Beane four months, right up until the allies liberated Beaune on September 8 1944.

Not only did the mother superior agree to harbour Maurice, she also carried messages back to his wife Pauline.

‘The mère supérieure and my grandmother would meet in church,’ said Véronique. ‘There my grandmother would receive instructions about how to make the wines and handle the business.’

‘After the war, Maurice donated two hectares of his finest Beaune 1er cru vineyards to the Hospices, to thank them for saving his life,’ said Jacquie Morrison.

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‘These vineyards make the Cuvée Maurice Drouhin wine that his grandson Frédéric Drouhin (Véronique’s brother) buys back every year at the auction.’

The 156th Hospices de Beuane auction will take place on 20 November.

Written by Laura Seal for Decanter.com

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