Traditions: when they help and when they harm

Corrina Wrights family have been growing vines at the family property in South Australia’s McLaren Vale for more than 175 years. From her childhood armed with an ice cream container on her head to protect her from swooping birds to nowadays with her kids now helping out on their school holidays.

For 180 years Corrina Wright’s family have been growing grapes on their property at McLaren Vale, but when she took over she began to make some seismic changes.

It was 1839, just years after the South Australian Colonisation Act had been passed and George Fife Angus had bought 13,000 acres of crown land for a mere 12 shillings an acre, when William and Elizabeth Oliver bought their farm from him and began planting grapevines. 

They were Corrina Wright’s great, great, great grandparents, and today Corrina makes wine from the grapevines they planted. 

Her family history, and the property that it is so connected to, have always been a core part of Corrina’s life.

“As a kid my Gran used to send me off down the driveway with a ice cream container on my head that had eyes drawn on the top so that when I was out in the vineyard cleaning drippers the magpies wouldn’t swoop me,” Corinna laughed. 

After school, she thought briefly about a life outside of grapevines and winemaking, but it didn’t last long.

Photo: Wine Selectors

“You have one of those epiphanies and you realise the thing that has been right in front of your face is probably where the most opportunity and the most excitement is,” she said, “and it’s also part of your DNA.”

“And so, instead of thinking that the grass was greener elsewhere, I came back home and really started chatting in a stronger way with my grandpa and my uncles, and sort of say, you know, how about we start our own wine label.”

This was in the early- nineties and at this stage the Oliver family considered themselves traditional grape growers, not winemakers. 

Corrina’s proposal got the go-ahead from her family, “my grandpa in particular was very keen because he really wanted to have some wine to swap with his bowls-mates and show off,” she said.

“So he sort of let me have some fruit and we talked a local winemaker into sort of hosting me by giving them some fruit as well and yeah, Oliver’s Taranga wine label was born.”

But Corrina is one of a very limited number of women entering Australia’s wine industry, something that she is increasingly concerned about. 

Women make up only ten percent of the workforce in production winemaking and viticulture and this number is dropping for reasons Corrina can only theorise. 

“Things like in the wine judging scene there were often hardly any women judging,” she said,  “often on boards there was very low representation, it’s just getting ridiculous to be honest.”

“And people seem to try to pretend that in winemaking you must be at the winery 24 hours, and you can’t possibly have a family and to me, sometimes that’s just an excuse of being organised.”

In this case, the traditional mode of doing things is something that Corrina is actively fighting against, she believes that people can’t be what they can’t see, which is why she has played a major role in creating the diversity and equality charter within the Australian wine industry.

“That [charter] really just talks about just making sure that when you are organising a panel for something that you’ve got diversity.”

“It just makes good business sense above everything else, whether it’s morally right or all the rest of it, it makes good business sense to have more diversity around the table.”

Corrina pictured in her Antola Trading shirt named after her

Published by Oli Le Lievre

Oli is the Founder and creator of Humans of Agriculture. He's passionate about celebrating the diverse and vast opportunities in agriculture, one story at a time.

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