The New York Times Wine Writer Frank Prial Dies at 82

Frank Prial

I was saddened to read of the death at 82 – not so old by today’s standards – of Frank J. Prial, who served as wine critic of The New York Times starting in 1972, at the birth of modern wine journalism, continuing with a break or two for 30 years or so before retiring in 2002.

Remembering Frank Prial

I’ve felt a particular affection for Frank Prial, perhaps because he came up through the ranks as a general news reporter before adding wine writing to his portfolio. I would more or less follow this path myself, on a much less imposing level, a decade later when I added wine writing to my duties as news reporter at The Louisville Times starting in the early ’80s. In those days, and later, I looked up to Prial – along with British scribe Hugh Johnson and Bon Appetit‘s Hank Rubin – as models for my own approach to wine journalism; and that affection continued even after Robert M. Parker Jr. and the slick-paper incarnation of Wine Spectator came along later and brought a different approach to wine reporting.

Eric Asimov, who now sits at Prial’s wine desk at The Times and who also does wine writing the journalist’s way, wrote this obituary in Wednesday’s newspaper.

For a little sample of Frank’s style, here’s an article Frank Prial wrote in 2008, telling of a memorable meal at Taillevent in Paris on the occasion of the death of Jean-Claude Vrinat, the famed restaurant’s owner and director. I share it not because it’s head-and-shoulders above the rest of his writing but because it’s the kind of wine reporting that Frank Prial did routinely.

Rest in peace, Frank Prial. May choirs of angels bearing crystal stemware filled with fine and rare Burgundy and Bordeaux sing you to your rest.

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