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August 3, 2023

Angelo Puglisi celebrates 80 years at Ballandean Estate

Angelo Puglisi, the Father of Queensland Wine, celebrated his 80th birthday Saturday 29 July at Ballandean Estate.

The founder of Queensland’s oldest family-run winery has spent his entire life on Ballandean Estate. For almost a century Angelo’s family business has been at the forefront of developing and promoting the Queensland wine industry, from modest beginnings  to a now multi-million-dollar industry.

Wine pioneers

“We knew that wine tourism would follow once there was wine to sell and some more cellar doors in the region. When we opened the cellar door four years after planting our first the Shiraz in 1968, there were only 300 wineries in Australia — now there is over 3300!”, says Mary Puglisi, Angelo’s wife of 50-plus years.

You’ll still find Angelo on his red tractor most days at Ballandean, tending his beloved vines, although he isn’t shy of a post-lunch siesta.

“If I drop dead at 104, this is where you’ll find me, propped up against a fence post, tractor wheels still turning.

“I live and breathe these vines and wines. We opened our  cellar door back in 1972. Through the years Mary and I have welcomed tens of thousands of visitors per year to taste wines and enjoy the hospitality. Mary and I, we’ve had 55 years together as a team, and we’ll keep on working as a team. I couldn’t have done any of this without her.

“One of my proudest achievements is Opera in the Vineyard. It raised over $1 million for charity in partnership with The Rotary Club of Stanthorpe over 27 brilliant events.

“Our greatest achievement by far though is our daughters, Robyn and Leeanne. How many wineries in Australia are run by a sister act? Movers and shakers, be it on the Australian Grape and Wine Association board, lobbying government, organising community events,  they represent the Puglisi fighting spirit — and love of a yarn at the cellar door!”

Rebel with a cause

Estate manager and daughter Robyn Puglisi Henderson says,

“Dad’s always been a rebel! He and Mum took over the farm back in 1968 with big dreams,  a vision to develop a viable wine industry in the Granite Belt region. They planted some of the Granite Belt’s first wine grapes, and our Opera Block Shiraz in 1968, some of Australia’s oldest vines. The vines whispered their secrets to him, igniting a lifelong passion that would shape his destiny.

“Angelo wasn’t shy of stopping traffic in his twenties, when trucks rolled down the main street of Stanthorpe laden with his massive barrels from Penfolds, spectators agog.

“Mum and Dad were presented their first winemaking gold medal 45 years ago at Royal Queensland Wine Show (RQWS) Awards. Back then, Angelo was swaggering about wearing Elvis Presley sideburns and a purple safari suit.

“Since then, his  passion and dedication have shaped the renowned Ballandean Estate Wines, inspiring countless others to make wine on the Granite Belt.”

Influence and innovation

“Dad’s  influence will continue to shape the future of the Granite Belt. He’s been instrumental in establishing the Granite Belt’s as an alternative wine  destination. Experimenting with varieties that fit our unique climate and terroir is what gets him excited. We have over 13 Strange Bird varietals planted by Dad at Ballandean Estate, says Robyn.

In a nation where most producers pulled up their vines in the late eighties at government behest, this is a remarkable achievement, and testament to the vision of Angelo and Mary Puglisi, pioneers of the wine industry in Queensland. Queensland’s Angelo Puglisi Grand Champion Wine of Show award at the Brisbane RNA is a perpetual acknowledgment to Puglisi’s influence and respect in the industry.

Angelo’s fighting spirit has seen him repeatedly triumph over adversity. According to Granite Belt winemaker Mike Hayes, “Angelo has been a real battler for his family. For that he has been rewarded with a rich life. He inspires me. I have got nothing by the highest respect for that family and what they have achieved.” 

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