Fri 13 Feb 2015

Remembering Colette Faller


It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Colette Faller. And the tragedy is all the more so that it is less than a year now that we mourned the death of her beautiful and talented daughter Laurence.

Collete Faller, pictured with daughters Cathy and Laurence

Collete Faller, pictured with daughters Cathy and Laurence

Colette was undoubtedly one of the great ladies in the wine business and through her vision and indomitable spirit, Alsace has become one of the top regions for white wine and Domaine Weinbach one of its greatest exponents. Indeed, Domaine Weinbach has become one of the greatest producers of fine white wine anywhere.

The journey was started by her husband Théo, who, with Johnny Hugel and Léon Beyer to name but two, were among the founders of Alsace’s rebirth following the granting of appellation status in 1961. Following Théo’s too early death in 1979, Colette took over, undaunted by the task and with two daughters to look after as well.

The original vineyard at Domaine Weinbach was the walled Clos des Capucins. Today the estate also includes holdings in other vineyards, many of them grands crus, such as the Schlossberg, Furstentum and more recently, Mambourg. Colette invested wisely and was greatly aided in time by both of her daughters, Laurence in the vines and cellar, and Cathy, veritable head of the Weinbach mission across the globe.

Over the years, wine style had changed with riesling becoming noticeably drier, yet Colette always insisted on wines with diamond-like precision and purity. All grape varieties were treated with the same attention to detail. A mere sylvaner was never less than a treat to savour, preferably with a choucroute maison, while a riesling could be an ethereal delight. Late-harvest wines became something of a speciality at Domaine Weinbach and Colette was always willing to share these precious nectars with visitors.

Domaine Weinbach

Domaine Weinbach

Receiving visitors at the estate was an operation in itself, masterminded by Colette and of course aided by her daughters. A succession of front rooms provided the stage for what could be a whirlwind of bottles and glasses. These wood-panelled rooms all have interconnecting doors as well as doors leading to the atrium-like space that is the great farmhouse kitchen and so allowing for simultaneous tastings. The third act of Der Rosenkavalier comes to mind with its secret doors and people popping in and out. The three Faller ladies took it in turn, appearing each time with a brace of bottles, sometimes the same ones!

Colette had a sound business sense, choosing partners and customers with care; The Wine Society was very fortunate to be among her favourite customers. Gastronomy was always close to her heart so, not surprisingly, Domaine Weinbach featured on the wine lists of the very best restaurants. Anyone fortunate enough to be served mousseline de grenouilles at l’Auberge de l’ill, might well have been served her riesling from the Schlossberg.

And while on the subject of food, Colette never accepted anything less than perfect. One multi-starred chef was given a dressing down for a dish and asked to do it again, which was done with grace and a smile. On the other hand she did not take kindly to Johnny Hugel’s comments of her muscat, not Johnny’s favourite grape variety as one recalls! Both those indomitable souls are now surely enjoying a laugh somewhere among Elysian vines. May they both rest in peace.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer for Alsace


  1. Mr Ulken Sami says:

    I visited Domaine Weinbach with my family on an Alsace trip back in 1997. It was pre arranged by Huw Blair, MD of Justerini & Brooks, their UK agents. We met Colette, Catherine and Laurence, all charming people. Catherine conducted a wine tasting for us showing samples across their range including some expensive Vendange Tardive ones. Then Laurence took us on a tour of the vineyards and the winery. I asked if I could buy some wine but they politely refused, referring me to their UK agents! A wonderful and unforgettable occasion on a memorable Alsace Wine Route excursion. The passing away of Colette Faller is a sad loss to the wine world, specially coming so soon after Laurence’s sudden and unexpected death last year. Rest in peace Colette and Laurence.

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