Lessons from the Pope of Wine: Alexis Lichine and Haskell’s
Wine is an art form. It can be appreciated in an instant, but it takes a lifetime to master. The true greats advanced the craft through their vines, their taste buds, their intellect and their vision. Alexis Lichine helped mold the wine business into what it is today and offered inspiration for how we connect with wine lovers. I am abundantly proud to have called him a friend.
Alexis Lichine was heralded as The Pope of Wine for many reasons. He owned and operated Chateau Lascombes and Chateau Prieure-Lichine. He selected wines for General Dwight D. Eisenhower during WWII. His Guide to the Wines and Vineyards of France and Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits defined wine for generations to follow. He made wine selection easier, convincing California winemakers to use varietal names, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, instead of generic regional names, like Burgundy or Chablis. He even changed the way people visit wineries, cleaning out the cellars to host tastings where people could truly experience the working vineyard.
Alexis changed the way people connect with wine, and we were fortunate enough to learn directly from him. Haskell’s founders, Benny and Fritzi, were close friends with Alexis, and the relationship continued to flourish after I, Jack Farrell, took ownership in 1970. It was always a big deal when Alexis would come to town, the media would snap photos and he would sign autographs; there was no one as big in the wine world at that time. I always took it as quite the compliment that a man of his reputation would come to Haskell’s every time he was in the United States. He must have thought we were doing something right—he even mentioned us in his biography.
Dedicating much of his life to speaking events and tastings around the world, Alexis sparked life into wine communities. Local wine lovers got a taste of that when, in 1981, we organized Minnesota’s largest sit-down tasting with Alexis Lichine as our honored guest. His breadth of knowledge and gregarious personality made distinct impressions on the people of Minneapolis, bringing their appreciation of wine to new levels. This type of relationship with the local wine community is why we are passionate about our own Bacchus, The Minnesota Wine & Food Society, which allows us to share knowledge, stories, and of course, wine with the people of Minnesota.
Alexis Lichine knew wine from soil to grape and from barrel to bottle to glass—just hearing him talk about wine would fundamentally alter your appreciation for it, and that was the experience we wanted for our customers. So we sent Haskell’s employees to Alexis’ vineyard to experience the full cycle of winemaking and develop a genuine expertise that’s deeper than the contents of a bottle. While our good friend is now gone, we still hold ourselves to his standard. Haskell’s employees are continually traveling the globe, walking the vineyards, and learning from the masters of wine, in hopes that our knowledge will elevate your experience. Stop on by—we’d love to share our stories.