New York Times wine columnist dies

Former New York Times wine columnist Frank J. Prial has died aged 82.

Frank J. Prial

He died in New Jersey on Tuesday from complications of prostate cancer.

Prial’s Wine Talk column ran for over three decades in the paper, from 1972 until his retirement in 2005.

Current New York Times wine columnist Eric Asimov credits the column for helping to introduce Americans to the world of wine in the early ‘70s, at the same time TV food personality Julia Child was busy educating Americans in the art of French cooking.

A friend of Child and her husband Paul, Prial reported in 1975 after a dinner at their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts: “They love wine; they drink a lot of it, but they are not about to be carried away by the wine mystique.”

Prial wrote about wine in an approachable manner, praising the likes of discount wine Two-Buck Chuck, sold at grocery chain Trader Joe’s for US$1.99.

Passionate in his belief that people need not be wine professionals in order to enjoy reading about wine, Prial denounced the obfuscating language of “winespeak”.

“Winespeak can be traced to the gothic piles of Oxbridge, where, in the 19th century, certain dons, addled by claret, bested one another in fulsome tributes to the grape,” he wrote in 1987.

Anti the fetishising of wine, he also highlighted to his readers the importance of the liquid in the bottle over elaborate labels and clever marketing campaigns.

“Shorn of their carefully constructed mystiques, beautiful labels and clever marketing, many expensive wines are really not that much superior to their less expensive rivals,” he said.

Prial published a number of books on wine, including Wine Talk in 1978, Companion to Wine in 1992 and Decantations in 2001.

Born in Newark on 4 November 1930, Prial graduated from Georgetown University in 1951 and served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War.

He joined The New York Times as a reporter in 1970 and began his wine column after writing articles about food and wine during trips to France with his wife.

Prial is survived by his wife Jeanne, three sons, and seven grandchildren.

One Response to “New York Times wine columnist dies”

  1. MARK SAVAGE says:

    Much saddened to hear that Frank Prial has passed on. I have very happy memories of judging USA Northwest wines with him in Seattle more years ago than I care to remember. He was brilliant company and a taster full of common sense who was never going to let himself be conned by marketing or high prices. I think that we shared a low threshold of tolerance for bullshit. The consumer needs more critics of his ilk to protect them from the new winespeak which is at least as irritating in different ways from the old one that he used to deplore.

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