Corrina Wright McLaren Vale Family Ties
Corrina Wright McLaren Vale Family Ties

Picture the scene for Corrina Wright: Your family have been growing grapes successfully in one of Australia’s finest wine regions for over 150 years. They are true pioneers that have helped shape the reputation of McLaren Vale as a fine Australian wine region. As part of part of the sixth generation of this proud family do you:

  1. Maintain the status quo and keep doing what the family has been doing well for a long time;
  2. Continue the family tradition of growing amazing grapes, start making your own wine and become a key leader in the Australian wine community?

Nothing at all wrong with option 1, but if you are someone with the talent, energy, drive and passion of sixth generation family member Corrina Wright then there was only really one option. Option 2. It was while Corrina was studying winemaking that she convinced her family to give her some fruit from their vineyard to make wine. Oliver’s Taranga was born. For the first time someone who knew the land, the vineyards and the site intimately was making wine from these exceptional grapes. And ever since Corrina Wright’s star has been on the rise. 

My wine philosophy is about expression of my site. My family's been on our property for a really long time and I feel that by osmosis I've learnt about the sites, so that's what I'm about. The expression of site.

Corrina Wright

The history of the Oliver family in McLaren Vale

While they have ‘only’ been making wine since 1994, the Oliver family have a history of grape growing and farming in South Australia that goes back over 170 years. In 1839, just three years after the colony of South Australia was founded, William and Elizabeth Oliver travelled to their new home from Scotland. After mooching around for a couple of years, trying to find a place to call their own, they eventually settled in the McLaren Vale in 1841. The property was just north of the new township of McLaren Vale and it wasn’t long before they were busy planting vineyards and orchards on the property. The family chose the location of the property well. In 1857, William Oliver was awarded ‘the best collection of grapes’ at the local Willunga Agricultural Society Exhibition and the family have been winning awards and plaudits for the quality of their grapes ever since. The exceptional quality of the Oliver’s grapes has also given them a close connection to Australia’s most famous fine wine, Penfolds Grange.

Growing grapes for Australia’s most esteemed wine

Penfolds Grange is arguably Australia’s most famous wine and the story of its creation by legendary winemaker Max Schubert with the help of brilliant research chemist Ray Beckwith is a modern tale of imagination, a battle against the odds and redemption. Growing grapes that are used to make Grange is one of the highest honours that you can have as an Australian grape grower. Some growers will cherish making the grade and having their Shiraz grapes included in the famous Australian wine just once in their lives, a truly great achievement. The folks at Oliver’s Taranga? They’ve had grapes from their vineyards included in Penfolds Grange fourteen times since 1996!

From growing grapes to making wine – Corrina Wright inspires a change

After growing up and working in her family vineyards in McLaren Vale, having a father in the industry, and working in various cellar doors in the area, it was a natural progression for Corrina Wright to develop a passion for winemaking. And so in 1993 she took the step of enrolling to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) at the University of Adelaide. It makes sense that those studying winemaking would be keen to make wine to help get the practical knowledge to back up the theoretical. So it was in this spirit that Corrina took a step that none of the other members of the Oliver family had taken before. She wanted to be the first in six generations to make wine from the grapes they’d be growing for over 150 years. But Corrina’s enthusiasm wasn’t shared initially by some family members. It took a little for her to convince them, in particular of her grandfather, to let her take some of the grapes to make their own wine. It is easy to understand Corrina’s desire to make wine with the Oliver’s renowned grapes, but it is also easy to understand the family’s reluctance given their long and proud history as grape growers, not winemakers.  Eventually though they relented and Oliver’s Taranga was born.

From winemaker to industry leader – Corrina’s journey continues…

So Corrina Wright had convinced the family to give her some grapes to work with, but she still needed a place to make the wines. Enter Australian winemaking legend Pam Dunsford. Pam was chief winemaker at Chapel Hill at the time and was more than happy to help out Corrina with some space in the winery to make the first vintages of Oliver’s Taranga. Pam was more than just a helping hand to Corrina, she was a true inspiration to her and many others in the Australian wine community. She instilled in Corrina a passion for challenging the status quo and making the Australian wine community a better, more diverse and accepting place. This passion has helped Corrina to become more than just a brilliant winemaker and has led her to strive to learn more and to share her skills with others in the community. In 2005 she completed the prestigious Len Evans Tutorial and is a prominent chair and judge at Australian wine shows. In 2006 she took part in the Australian wine community’s inaugural ‘Future Leaders’ professional and personal development program. Then in 2012 Corrina was a winner of the Industry Leaders Fund Award (ILF), travelling to Massachusetts, USA to participate in the High Potentials Leadership Programme at Harvard Business School.  All while growing Oliver’s Taranga into one of Australia’s most exciting new producers.

Looking forward to the next 170 years at Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards

As a result of these learnings, and the experience of over 170 years in the wine game, Corrina and the team at Oliver’s Taranga are widely recognised as innovators across grape growing, winemaking and wine marketing. Be it emerging Mediterranean varieties, innovative consumer events or reinvigorating the McLaren Vale Wine Show into a benchmark for other regions to follow Corrina Wright has achieved a heck of a lot in a relatively short amount of time. But if you think she’s going to be resting on your laurels, you’ve got another thing coming. And we can’t wait to jump on board and enjoy what will be a delicious ride…

 

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