Outpouring of wine success
First Qld woman on the board
BEHIND every successful woman stands her family cheering her on.
Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi (centre) has been elected as the first Queensland woman on the Winemakers Federation, but she said she wouldn’t have got there without her parents Angelo and Mary Puglisi and her sister Robyn Henderson.
The fourth generation Puglisi couldn’t imagine doing anything other than selling Granite Belt wine to the world.
BECOMING the first Queensland woman on the Australian Winemaker Federation board may be an outstanding achievement but for Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi it’s just another day on the job.
Ms Puglisi-Gangemi, from Ballandean Estate, was elected onto the board on November 13 but has served on the committee for seven years.
The daughter of Queensland wine patriarch Angelo Puglisi has lived and breathed wine-making for as long as she can remember.
“My sister and I were involved from when we were young,” she said.
“We spent many school holidays out in the vineyard with Dad.
“We started from the very basics – from learning how to grow the grapes and eventually my interest became more than that.”
It was during high school she decided she wanted to become a winemaker, taking on science classes where she was often the only girl.
“Chemistry and Leeanne did not blend well,” she said with a laugh.
“I thought wine-making would be too difficult.
“But I always had the intention of coming back to the family business.”
After finishing high school in 1986, Ms Puglisi-Gangemi pursued her other passion of tourism by studying a business degree and working in the travel industry for six years.
“Tourism was my thing, I was really, really interested,” she said.
“If I wasn’t ever going to come back to Ballandean Estate I wanted to be running tourism in the Granite Belt.”
Ms Puglisi-Gangemi went on to marry her husband, Mario, and have her first child, Steven, before returning to Ballandean Estate in 1992.
“When I came back it was just Mum and Dad and me,” she said.
“We did have a winemaker on staff but really it had been Mum and Dad on their own.”
With a growing cellar door and a business degree in the bag, Ms Puglisi-Gangemi put her skills to use to help the business grow.
“My sister (Robyn) became slightly involved ... Mario, my husband, came into the business,” she said.
“He started looking after the production side of the business and letting Dad concentrate more in the winery.
“Each time one of us joined the business it grew significantly.”
Ms Puglisi-Gangemi is filled with passion for Queensland wine, saying she could talk about Granite Belt wine forever.
Her passion was what made her the perfect person for the role of Queensland Wine Industry Association representative on the Australian Winemaker Federation committee for seven years. Now as a board member she is looking forward to working with small wineries like Ballandean Estate from across the country.
“It’s often difficult because small wineries do ask, ‘What do you actually do for us?’ ” she said.
“It’s trying to give all wineries in Australia a fair go to make it a fair and equitable industry for everybody.”
Being the first Queensland woman on the board did not faze Ms Puglisi-Gangemi. She’d never felt as if her gender presented any challenges in the industry.
“Maybe that’s the way Robyn and I were brought up,” she said.
“We did what the boys did, so if Dad was out in the vineyard we were out there with him.
“It’s just never occurred to me if I really wanted to do it I couldn’t because I’m a woman.”
However despite her never feeling hard done by, she understands other women in the wine industry do face challenges.
“I do know for some women it is a huge problem,” Ms Puglisi-Gangemi said.
“I can understand their point of view. It’s never bothered me, I’ve never felt that prejudice.”
She hoped her connections with local federal member and
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud would be of benefit to the federation.
“What the winemakers federation does mostly is lobbies government,”
❝It’s been a really, really amazing journey to watch from the days when Robyn and I used to help out in the vineyard to see what we’ve been able to achieve.
— Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi
she said. “With David Littleproud being agricultural minister it’s a good opportunity to have that connection with the wine industry.
“If there’s opportunities for us to work with him I can be that connection.”
Ms Puglisi-Gangemi’s key focuses while on the board include maintaining the rights of Australia’s winemakers to market their wines in Australia and internationally using grape variety names and amalgamating the Winemaker Federation and grape grower representative body Australian Vignerons to form a single united body.
“(In high school) people said why would you want to work on a farm but the wine industry is so much more than that,” she said.
At the end of the day, Ms Puglisi-Gangemi couldn’t imagine life any other way.
“It’s been a really, really amazing journey to watch from the days when Robyn and I used to help out in the vineyard to see what we’ve been able to achieve,” she said.
“I often pinch myself – it often doesn’t feel like 27 years since I’ve been here.”
PERFECT BLEND: Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi is the first Queensland woman on the Australian Winemaker Federation board.
Leeanne (front right) credits her family for her success – (from left) Robyn Henderson, Angelo Puglisi, Mary Puglisi, Hayden Gangemi and winemaker Dylan Rhymer.
Ten-year-old Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi helps out in the vineyards.