Other Notable Deaths


April 25, 2006

Alexis Bespaloff, 71, wine columnist for New York Magazine for more than two decades, the author of six books on wine and a frequent contributor to food, wine and travel magazines, died of cancer Saturday at his home in Las Cruces, N.M.

Mr. Bespaloff joined the ranks of prominent wine writers with publication of The Signet Book of Wine in 1971. A nontechnical introduction to what was then a forbidding subject to most Americans, The Signet Book was revised and expanded in 1980 and again in 1985, selling well more than a million copies.

Alexis Bespaloffs Guide to Inexpensive Wines appeared in 1973, and a literary anthology, The Fireside Book of Wine, was published in 1977. His revision and update of The Frank Schoonmaker Encyclopedia of Wine, first published in 1964, appeared in 1988. His magazine column ran from 1972 until 1996.

Mr. Bespaloff was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1934. Soon thereafter, the family moved to Belgium, then Brazil, finally settling in New York City on the eve of World War II. He attended the Horace Mann School and graduated from Amherst College with a degree in English literature. He briefly attended Harvard Business School, dropping out to work as a publicist for Simon & Schuster.

He soon moved into the wine business and found himself in Bordeaux, France, representing a New York importer. Returning to New York after 18 months in France, he worked for a time at Sherry-Lehmann, the wine retailer, before deciding he would rather write about wine than sell it.

In a 2004 interview he said: Its not unusual for connoisseurs to look back with regret at having missed the golden age of their particular interest - the Elizabethan Age for poetry, perhaps the 17th century for Dutch painting, or the heyday of Bach or Mozart. For oenophiles, this is the golden age, and there is every reason to predict that the next millennium will enable this specialized world to shine even more brightly.

Among friends, he was known as much for his acerbic wit as for his wine knowledge. There was, for instance, his telephone answering machine message: I cannot take your call right now, but if its an emergency, white with fish and red with meat.

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