Frank J. Prial, New York Times Wine Columnist, Passes

The longtime wine-and-food journalist dies of prostate cancer at the age of 82.


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Frank J. Prial, author of the The New York Times column Wine Talk—which tackled wine-related subjects ranging from tasting notes to consumer trends for more than three decades beginning in the ’70s—passed away on November 6 in West Orange, New Jersey, due to complications of prostate cancer. He was 82 years old.

For the Baby Boomer generation in particular, Prial was arguably the most authoritative voice on the subject of wine in America. In an era when fine wine and food was gaining in popularity—and when The New York Times was the print publication of record—he taught devoted readers how to appreciate the industry and set the tone of the subject matter on a national level.

Prial’s interests ranged far and wide, across every aspect of wine. In a notable 1998 column called "The Most Reliable Dinner Mate: German Riesling," he introduced the new influx of German trocken wines by comparing them to bottlings more familiar to the American palate—Rieslings from Alsace. In another memorable piece published in 1996, he mused on the significance of health warnings on wine labels. Amateurs and aficionados alike found an informative, inspiring voice in Prial, making wine more accessible.

In 1973, on the first anniversary of his column, Prial wrote, “Was there enough going on to sustain a weekly column? Would there be any reader interest?” The answer to both questions, of course, is an emphatic yes—and Mr. Prial can take all of the credit.

Frank J. Prial is survived by his wife, the former Jeanne Shook; three sons, Frank Jr., Mark and Dunstan; his sister, Patricia; his brother, Donald; and seven grandchildren.

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