Alexis Lichine

Infobox Writer
name = Alexis Lichine
birthdate = 1913
birthplace = Moscow
deathdate = June 1, death year and age|1989|1913
deathplace = Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Bordeaux
occupation = Wine writer, négociant, vintner

Alexis Lichine (1913-1989) was a wine writer and entrepreneur. He played a key role in promoting varietal labelling of wine, was a masterful salesman of wine, and owned Château Prieure-Lichine and a share of Château Lascombes in the Médoc.


Lichine was born in Moscow in 1913. His family fled to France during the Russian Revolution of 1917, going on to the United States in 1919. He studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania but dropped out because he felt he wasn't learning anything. He was hired by wine merchant Frank Schoonmaker as his national sales manager following the repeal of Prohibition.

On the outbreak of World War II, Lichine caught the last American ocean liner out of Bordeaux, the S.S. Manhattan. During the war he served in the United States Army Military Intelligence, in Europe and North Africa and was discharged as a Major.Fact|date=April 2007

On his return from the war, Lichine asked for full partnership in the company. Schoonmaker declined and Lichine left. He moved to Margaux to set up a shipping organization, Lichine & Cie., which became a leading exporter of first quality wines. In 1951 he purchased Chateau Prieure-Lichine and also became part owner and manager of Château Lascombes, both in the Médoc.

In 1959 Lichine was a member of a committee that unsuccessfully launched a bid to revise the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.cite web|last =Prial|first =Frank J. "The New York Times"|title =The Battle of 1855|url=|date =1989-08-20 ] Undeterred, Lichine published his own "Classification des Grands Crus Rouges de Bordeaux" in 1962 and made many revisions over more than thirty years while campaigning for changes to a classification he contended was outdated.cite book|last =Lichine|first =Alexis|title =Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits|publisher = Cassell & Company Ltd.|date =1967|location =London|pages =p.144-148 ] His efforts led him to be referred to as "the doyen of unofficial classification compilers".cite book|last =Peppercorn|first =David|title =Bordeaux|publisher = Mitchell Beazley|date =2003|location =London| isbn= 1-84000-927-6|pages =p.47 ]

Lichine served as an expert taster in the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 and in the earlier New York Wine Tasting of 1973. In 1987, Lichine was chosen the "Man of the Year" by the wine magazine "Decanter".Cite web|last= Lechmere|first= Adam, ""|title= Barton named Decanter Man of the Year|url=|date= 2007-02-27]

Alexis Lichine died of cancer at Château Prieure-Lichine on June 1, 1989. He was succeeded by his son Sacha, aged 28, who later moved to Switzerland and sold Prieure-Lichine in August 1999. [cite web|last= Prial |first= Frank J. "The New York Times" |title= WINE TALK; Chateau Where Lichine Once Ruled Is Sold |url=|date= August 4, 1999]

In 2008, he was posthumously inducted into the Wine Writers' Hall of Fame by the Wine Media Guild of New York

Varietal labelling

Starting around 1940, Lichine and Schoonmaker promoted the idea that California producers should label their wines by the grape variety or varieties from which they were made. The standard practice among New World producers was to give their wines semi-generic labels. [cite book| last = McCoy| first = Elin| title = The Emperor of Wine: the Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Rein of American Taste| location = New York| publisher = HarperCollins| year = 2005| isbn = 0-06-009369-2| page = 17] That is, they named them after the regions whose wines they resembled. For example, full-bodied red varieties might be labeled "Burgundy", whereas crisp whites might be labeled "Chablis".

California's Wente was the first vintner to adopt the practice. After calling its Sauvignon Blanc by its varietal name rather than labeling it "Graves," Lichine and Schoonmaker found its sales volume to increase several-fold. More important, they were able to sell it in the important east coast U.S. market. Others, such as Robert Mondavi, soon adopted the practice, which has become the standard for New World (and, increasingly, some Old World) wines.


Lichine’s writings included "Wines of France," (1951, revised 1955) "Guide to Wines and Vineyards of France", and "Alexis Lichine’s Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits" (1967). "The New York Times" wine critic Frank J. Prial asserted that "Alexis Lichine, the Russian-American who loved France but hated the French, taught his adopted country to drink wine."

ee also

* French wine
* Bordeaux wine
* Semi-generic
* List of wine personalities


* Prial, Frank J. [ Alexis Lichine, 76, an Author and Expert on Wine] Obituary in "The New York Times", June 2, 1989
* Prial, Frank J. "Decantations: Reflections on Wine by the New York Times Wine Critic". NY: St. Martin's Griffin, 2001.;Footnotes

NAME=Lichine, Alexis
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Wine writer and vintner
PLACE OF BIRTH=Moscow, Russia
DATE OF DEATH=June 1, 1989
PLACE OF DEATH=Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Bordeaux

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