St Pat's old boy toured Europe promoting wine

22:41, Oct 29 2011
Christopher Collett
Christopher Collett

Christopher Edwin Collett, wine expert:

b Wellington May 8, 1950;

d Koblenz, Germany, September 23, 2011, aged 61.

Chris Collett was a German-based wine academic who carved out an independent life for himself as a wine marketer and writer.

The son of Claude and Frances Collett and the youngest of five children, he was educated at Marist Brothers in Miramar and St Patrick's College, then in Cambridge Tce, where he excelled in French and Latin.

When he was 18 months old, his father, a prominent newspaper advertising man, was diagnosed with cancer. He died when his youngest son was just 11.


In 1972, Mr Collett travelled to Germany to watch the Munich Olympics. Unlike his Victoria University travelling companions, once the Olympics were over, he decided to stay in Germany.

From his base at Koblenz, he taught languages at secondary schools before working at the New Zealand embassy in Bonn. Throughout his working life he retained strong trade and business links with the New Zealand community in Germany.

In 1981 he studied wine science in Geisenheim under white wine authority Helmut Becker, and in 1982, he was appointed export sales manager for Deinhard Wine Export and Sektkellereien, based in Koblenz.

The following year, he attended a seminar and carried out research on red wine production at L'Institut d'Oenologie in Bordeaux, France.

He travelled extensively throughout Europe to hold seminars and lectures, on Deinhard brands and the health properties they possessed. The job entailed presiding over wine tastings for select groups such as gourmet clubs and journalists.

He was the company's liaison officer, dealing with wine journalists and broadcasters throughout Europe, using French, German and English in radio broadcasts, written articles and press releases.

In 1993, he began freelance work with the German Wine Institute in the city of Mainz.

He lectured students at catering schools in the Netherlands and Belgium for the institute on the subject of German wine and viticulture.

In 1996 he learnt he had multiple sclerosis and, as his health deteriorated, was unable to hold down fulltime work. At the time of his death he was working at the Federal German Horticulture Exposition in Koblenz.

He was particularly devoted to his mother, and was greatly affected by her death, aged 97, last year because his poor health meant he could not attend the funeral.

Otherwise he handled his illness stoically and on the evening of September 22 called friends Brijitte and Achim Schmolke, to say he was feeling unwell. They took him to hospital and were heartbroken to learn he was dead 24 hours later.

He was a man who was happy with his own company. Throughout his life he had a love of music with a favourite song being Paul Simon's I am a rock - a song about a recluse locking himself away from the world.

He remained a true Kiwi, returning to New Zealand regularly to visit family, friends and vineyards.

Source: Collett family members.

The Dominion Post