As part of the daily rations for French servicemen at the beginning of World War I, servicemen were given one Camembert cheese and 25 centiliters of red wine.
However, at the start of the first World War in 1915, each soldier was regularly given a 1/4-litre bottle of wine. By 1916, this had risen to half a liter. By 1917, it had increased to roughly three-quarters of a liter with the option of purchasing more.
By 1916, the army was providing 12 million hectoliters of wine per year to its soldiers. The owners of the Languedoc vineyard donated 20 million liters of wine to the army for use at the start of the war, while France’s North African colonies also produced a substantial amount of the wine.
Terms of Endearment
The soldiers referred to their wine ration in several ways, “including bleu, bluchet, brutal, gingin, ginglet, jaja, picton, and rouquin,” but the most popular and well-known was “pinard.” This term has no known etymology.
There’s evidence that the term was used for wine rations by some, though not all, garrisons throughout France in the 1880s, but that it had gained importance by the early 1900s.
Because wine rations were frequently white and not red, the word may have arisen from the grape variety most Pinard is created from, the Pineau d’Aunis, or from a grape called Pinard, which was an Alsace cross.
Throughout the war, many Australian soldiers developed a taste for wine, whether white or red. In contrast to today’s regional varietals in France, which are subject to strict quality control, these wines were famous for being affordable and cheerful. Red wine, on the other hand, remained the most popular alcoholic beverage, with spiced or sparkling wine being served only on rare occasions.
The United Kingdom’s and Australia’s policies were more conservative. Commonwealth troops, apart from Muslim males from Britain’s imperial lands, were given a daily ration of rum. One ounce (28 ml) was frequently delivered in the morning and was occasionally mixed in with tea or coffee.
For prolonged periods of time, French troops from various regions of France were occasionally forced to live in trenches alongside individuals from other parts of the country. They developed a shared culture and practice by drinking wine, something many of them had never had before.
During this time, drinking wine was heavily touted as a way for troops to bond while on the battlefield. The French wine industry was irrevocably affected by the war, which destroyed much of the country’s terrain, including areas of the Champagne region, but wines were still produced in subterranean cellars using grapes harvested by women and children.
Vineyards were re-built with more forethought after the war, and in 1919, the French government established the legal appellation, adopting new winemaking rules and 12 major areas.