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June 6, 2019

Women in wine fermenting change at Ballandean Estate

Ballandean Estate has a rich history of empowered women in wine. Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi was recently voted onto the Winemaker’s Federation board, and is Queensland’s first female voice and vote.

At just 19 years of age, estate matriarch and wine pioneer Mary Puglisi visualised opening a cellar door and being the catalyst for Queensland’s Barossa and Hunter Valley on the Granite Belt with husband Angelo Puglisi. She has spent over 50 years looking after tourists and has won the prestigious Samuel Basset award for her contribution to the Queensland wine industry.

Angelo’s mother Josephine was a true Australian pioneer and business woman. Arriving in Australia from Sicily at just 12 years of age, she went on to build the foundation of Ballandean Estate with her father and husband over  four decades. She stared down the Australian army demanding to put her husband and father in internment camps and surrender of farm machinery during World War 2, and instead, she negotiated a deal to supply their crops to feed the Army as an alternative. Inspirational!

Ballandean Estate’s Business and Export Manager Robyn Puglisi-Henderson has developed the export trade from zero to 20% of our business turnover in just five years, and has opened up our export trade to China, where there is significant demand for our premium reds.  They just love our Shiraz!

Meet our new vineyard manager Robyn Robertston

Ballandean Estate continues to break new ground with the appointment of a female vineyard manager, Robyn Robertson, former vineyard managed at Sirromet Wines. She brings over 30 years of viticultural expertise to the estate, and has spent her entire life on the land at Ballandean.

I am thrilled to be at Ballandean Estate, the Puglisis have welcomed me into their family. When I heard that there was an opening, the opportunity to learn in the presence of Queensland’s father of wine Angelo Puglisi was just too good to pass up.

Robyn Robertston
Robyn Robertson, Angelo Puglisi, Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi

Granite Belt wine pioneers

Twisted Gum Wines owner Michelle Coelli has been an outstanding support to the local industry. She’s great to talk to, and runs monthly farm walks at different vineyards. Sue Smith from Pyramid Wines is another Granite Belt woman in the industry I admire.

Robyn Robertston

Why Robyn made the move from Sirromet to Ballandean Estate

Sirromet’s founder Tony Morris was really supportive of the move across to Ballandean and the chance for me to pursue my viticultural passion. One of the Sirromet properties I managed was my family property. I’ve worked on that property for over 20 years, and it was once our family orchard.

Nurturing Ballandean Estate’s Strange Birds™ was another drawcard, as the grapes at Sirromet are mainly traditional varieties. Fiano, Saperavi, Malbec, Durif, Tempranillo, Viognier … so many new challenges! I am most excited about the Durif 2020 vintage—it is such a temperamental Strange Bird™  , as it produces a heavy crop. If we don’t prune enough now, it will over-fruit. Given the drought conditions, it is critical that we prune hard to ensure a low yield of high quality.

Every day is different at Ballandean Estate—I could be pruning, tasting fruit, showing a tour group through our vines, maintaining irrigation lines or running harvest teams. I spend a lot of time with Angelo on the vineyards. Such a privilege to work with a master viticulturist. It is in his blood and mine.

Robyn Robertston

Robyn came on board mid-vintage and experienced a baptism of fire in an incredibly challenging season, with the Girraween bushfires blazing. Her influential position is made even more remarkable when despite gender-equal enrolments in wine and viticulture courses, women make up less than 10 per cent of the wine industry workforce, according to a large-scale Australian study by the Curtin Graduate School of Business, Women in top roles in the wine industry: Forging ahead or falling behind? Representation of women in leadership and senior roles is even smaller.


For all media enquiries please contact:

Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi or Robyn Puglisi-Henderson

Ph: (07) 4684 1226

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