Home > History of Wine > “bottles exploded, sending showers of glass into the air”: The 1944 German bombing of the Halle aux Vins after the Liberation of Paris

“bottles exploded, sending showers of glass into the air”: The 1944 German bombing of the Halle aux Vins after the Liberation of Paris


Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port) recently posted about the destruction of 1927 vintage Port during the World War 2 bombings of waterfront warehouses in London.  He wrote that the vintage port “was destroyed and was seen running down the streets in ruby rivers.”  There was similar destruction of wine in France as a result of the Liberation of Paris.  Though the Germans surrendered Paris on August 25, 1944, not all was immediately quiet.  Late in the evening of August 26, 1944, the German Luftwaffe bombed Paris.  Hundreds of people were killed and injured as well as nearly 2,000 buildings were partially and totally destroyed.  Amongst the damaged buildings was the Halle aux Vins.[1]

Dans un chai de la Halle aux Vins, il no reste plus que les cercles des barriques calcinees. [5]

Dans un chai de la Halle aux Vins, il no reste plus que les cercles des barriques calcinees. [5]

The Halle aux Vins was first built as the central wine market for Paris in the 17th century.[2]  It was a complex of warehouses built to handle the millions of hectoliters worth of wine consumed in the city.  It occupied some six or seven city blocks in order to store millions of bottles and nearly a million barrels of wine.[6]  On any given day nearly 400,000 gallons of wine entered and left the warehouses.  On the evening of the bombing it contained the stocks of 100 leading wine merchants.  The Halle aux Vins was targeted because previous German efforts were unsuccessful in capturing the massive stores of wine.

Les Bombes au Phosphore Et a Retardement. [5]

Les Bombes au Phosphore Et a Retardement. [5]

The intention must have been for the complete destruction of the complex for the incendiary bombs created a fire so massive that the burning Halle aux Vins illuminated all of central Paris.[3]  Firefighters came to the scene but their efforts were complicated by shots from snipers.[4]  The heat from the fire caused Champagne corks to pop and bottles of Cognac to “burst like bombs”.  Wooden cases still smoldered the following day.  There were piles of melted glass which “had been stores of savory wines” and heaps of deformed metal hoops which marked all that were left of wooden casks.  Not all wine was destroyed for one wholesaler saved two casks of Bordeaux.

He hooked up a rubber hose and served the wine in quaint, shallow silver cups to the firemen and anyone else who seemed thirsty.  The same wine, in Paris cafes, would cost about six dollars a bottle.  It was being poured like water, and more was hitting the ground than the cups. [1]


[1] Wine Stocks Destroyed, By GENE CURRIVAN By Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file); Aug 28, 1944;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer pg. 5
[2] Hogshead Wine: A Brief History of the Halle aux Vins in Paris.
[3] Overy, R. J. Why the Allies Won. W. W. Norton & Co. 1997.
[4] “Paris Snipers Are Mopped Up” Date: Monday, August 28, 1944 Paper: Register-Republic (Rockford, IL) Page: 2 .
[5] Le bombardement de Paris par les Allemands. Musee de la Resistance En Ligne. URL: http://www.museedelaresistanceenligne.org/expo.php?expo=84&theme=156#media4477
[6] THE TRUE CITY OF BACCHUS ON THE SEINE: In the Depot Beside the River … By TOM MARVEL New York Times (1923-Current file); Jan 8, 1933; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. SM17

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