Nicolas Belfrage MW was a leading expert and pioneering specialist on the wines of Italy, working as a wine writer as well as a buyer and importer. Author of Life Beyond Lambrusco, The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy, Barolo to Valpolicella and Brunello to Zibibbo, he was also a regular contributor to publications including Decanter, The World of Fine Wine and Harpers. Born in Los Angeles in 1940, he spent his childhood between New York and London. In 1980 he became the first American to become a Master of Wine and was a longstanding member of the Circle of Wine Writers. He died last month aged 82, following a period of suffering from Parkinson’s.
Maggie Rosen leads the Circle’s tributes:
“Nicolas John “Nick” Belfrage MW, who passed away on September 17, 2022, was a superb wine writer and merchant, and a genuinely beloved member of the industry.
“During his long career, he wrote several books and innumerable articles, becoming an invaluable resource for anything relating to Italian wine. From his first book, Life beyond Lambrusco: understanding Italian fine wine (1985) to his most recent, The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy (2009), he widened wine lovers’ frame of reference, encouraging us to look beyond the well-known and to journey more deeply into lesser known – but very worthy – regions and styles of Italy.
“Nick was born in 1940 in Los Angeles, USA and moved to the UK in his teens, after his politically active British parents came under the scrutiny of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Nick became enamoured with wine while working for Europa Foods and Bretzel Foods. He earned his MW credential in 1980, and ultimately launched two wine businesses – Winecellars, based in Fulham, and Vinexus. He ran the latter from Tuscany, his second home, eventually working with his dear friend Nick Bielak MW, (d. 2020).
“A Circle member for many years, Nick was generous with his knowledge and experience and happy to participate in lively discussions with students and new writers, especially over a glass or bottle.”
“Italian wine owes a huge debt to Nick in tirelessly promoting their diversity and quality in the UK, both commercially and through his writing.
“One of my abiding memories of Nick was a remarkable tasting, back sometime in the 1990s at Winecellars, the shop in the middle of Wandsworth that Nick set up with David Gleave. If I remember right it was held on a Sunday. The centrepiece of the tasting was an amazing vertical of Barolo and Barbaresco certainly going back to the 1940s. There must have been at least 60 of these wines to taste along with an array from other regions of Italy.
“A very sad loss!”
“I met Nick some 20 years ago when I started working in the wine sector, at the time as a rather ‘green’ Italy specialist, organising incoming trade and press trips to the region, as well as writing articles on Italy for UK publications, such as Decanter. I had read Nick’s books and greatly admired his style and vast knowledge of Italian wines, the culture and the people he talked about were an inspiration to learn and discover more.
I later met Nick in person, the first time on a trade trip I had organised to Vinitaly for UK trade, I was impressed by his unassuming, kindly manner. Nick was one of the most modest people in the trade, he was down to earth, and always ready to share his thoughts and to listen to others. Each time I met Nick, whether it was at the Anteprima Brunello or judging on the Italy panel at Decanter World Wine Awards it was always a pleasure and a privilege to taste with him.”