Sabrage and Sabotage – the Life of Comte Robert-Jean de Vogüé

Our latest half-hull is a mid-twentieth century shipyard engineers model of Eryx II

Research revealed the yacht was commissioned by Comte Robert-Jean de Vogüé, a fascinating character that witnessed glamour, conflict and liberation in equal measure throughout his life. Read on for a glimpse of his life story.

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Sleek from afar and covered in original pen and ink annotations, Eryx II was the last ever vessel designed in full by Charles Ernest Nicholson. The model is a joy to have in our shop and while the marks across the hull shine light onto the shipbuilding process, it was the pencilling on the back – ‘For J. De Vogue’ – that truly piqued our curiosity.

Born in 1896 in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, Robert-Jean de Vogüé enlisted for the French military at the outbreak of WWI where he fought with distinction. He forged a career in the forces in the years following the conflict, marrying the stylish Ghislaine d’Eudeville, heiress to the Moët fortune, in 1924.

In 1930, at the conclusion of his military career, he took over as Moët & Chandon’s Managing Director. One of his first acts was to introduce the first ever commercially available prestige cuvée, a 1921 vintage that was first sold to the public in 1936. The name ‘Dom Pérignon’ was chosen, a title given to Moët by Francine-Durant Mercier when she married Paul Chandon in 1927. De Vogüé turned Dom Pérignon into one of the most prestigious names in Champagne, leaving an indelible mark on French winemaking that endures almost a century later.

Alongside introducing Dom Pérignon, De Vogüé used his position on the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) to secure the liberation of seven hundred French prisoners of war from the Nazis.

“Despite his abstinence from alcohol, Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest cellar in Berchtesgaden contained roughly half a million bottles of the finest vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy, rare ports and cognacs and massive quantities of Champagne.”

However, as de Vogüé began to market his latest cuvée, France’s wine-making regions were thrown into crisis by the Nazi occupation. Despite losing workers and materials to the war effort, the Nazis were keen for French vineyard production to continue. Leading figures such as Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels were well known collectors and saw the consumption of French bottles as a way of flaunting their victory, with millions of bottles stolen from the Champagne region in just the first few weeks of the occupation.

Despite his abstinence from alcohol, Hitler also indulged in the celebrations; his Eagle’s Nest cellar in Berchtesgaden contained roughly half a million bottles of the finest vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy, rare ports and cognacs, and massive quantities of Champagne. To manage the flow of French alcohol back to the Motherland, the Führer installed a ‘weinführer’ in each of the winemaking regions. Champagne was placed under the control of Otto Klaebisch, who, despite his background a wine merchant and familiarity to many in the trade, did not compromise with the demands he placed on his sector.

In 1941, finding Klaebisch's demands almost impossible to meet, the wineries formed the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) and elected de Vogüé as their negotiator-in-chief. De Vogüé subsequently used this position to liberate seven hundred French prisoners of war, citing their importance to Champagne’s production lines in his meetings with Klaebisch.

Defending his countrymen from the weinführer was not de Vogüé’s only act of defiance against the Nazis. A bust still stands honouring his memory in Épernay, where he led a branch of the Eastern French Resistance.

The New York Post describes how the Resistance were the first to notice that major German offensives were often preceded by large orders of alcohol; “In one instance, the Germans ordered that the French bottles be specially corked and packed in order to be sent to a very hot country. The French passed this information along to British intelligence just before the Nazi campaign in Egypt began.” 

Almost inevitably, de Vogüé’s double life as Resistance leader and CIVC negotiator aroused the suspicions of the Gestapo. On 24 November, 1943, he was arrested in the office of Otto Klaebisch and incarcerated alongside fellow Resistance fighter Robert Tritant, leader of the CDLR group in Châlons. De Vogüé confided in Tritant, unaware their cell was bugged, and was swiftly sentenced to death at a hearing in Reims.

After spending years securing the freedom of others, de Vogüé was now relying on others to save him from his fate. Five days after his arrest, the secretary of the CIVC, Maurice Leflond, issued a strike order for the workers of the Champagne region. Facing the possibility of their glasses running empty, the Nazis were forced to reconsider.

De Vogüé’s death sentence was commuted and he was instead sent to various concentration camps including Karlsruhe, Rheinbach, Ziegenhain, and Rheinberg, where he clung to life until the war ended in May 1945. The German Instrument of Surrender was signed in Reims, the unofficial capital of Champagne.

De Vogüé resumed running Moët & Chandon upon his release, splitting his time between the vineyards and the sea. His first Nicolson acquisition was 1923 yawl Barbara, sailed out of Cannes into the Mediterranean, with Eryx and Eryx II following in 1959 and 1964 respectively.

De Vogüé passed away in 1976. Eryx II has covered thousands of miles since, currently available for charter in French Polynesia, and we are proud to have played a small part in the schooner’s story.

Shop our half-hull model of Eryx II here.


Illson, M. (1976) Count de vogue dies; war hero Ran Moet, The New York Times. Available at:  

Pim and R.W. Robson ( Gründer (1977) Pacific Islands Monthly, volume 48, no. 9 - 1977, AbeBooks. Available at:  

ROBERT DE VOGÜÉ (2012) Musée de la Résistance en Ligne. Available at:

Tucker, R. (2019) How France’s champagne makers fooled Nazis - and helped turn the tide of WWII, New York Post. Available at: