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.
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. Undeterred, Lichine published his own Classification des Grands Crus Rouges de Bordeaux in 1962 and made several revisions in the following years while campaigning for changes to a classification he contended was outdated. His efforts led him to be referred to as “the doyen of unofficial classification compilers”.
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.
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.
In 2008, he was posthumously inducted into the Wine Writers’ Hall of Fame by the Wine Media Guild of New York