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Grape Growers Untold: An Oral History Project

Clare Valley Wine & Grape Association

Welcome to 'Grape Growers Untold,' an oral history initiative of the Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association. Join us as we talk to the stalwarts of the Clare Valley Grape growing community, taking a journey behind the vines to the stories of days gone by, growing grapes in the beautiful Clare Valley.

Former ABC Broadcast Journalist and Clare Valley local Annabelle Homer explores the insights of eleven seasoned growers who offer a rich perspective on decades of viticultural work.

These growers tell captivating and candid stories of their lives in the vineyard that truly capture the essence of growing grapes in the Clare Valley.

All Episodes

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Episode: 1

Grape Growers Untold - Malcolm Parish and Neil Grace

In this episode, growers Neil Grace and Malcolm Parish, both long-time Leasingham growers from the Clare Valley, share their intertwined lives.

Malcolm has a rich grape-growing heritage, with his grandfather being one of the first to plant Riesling in the region. He’s led a diverse life as a surveyor, grape grower, vineyard manager and teacher.

Neil, transitioned from maintenance manager at Quelltaler to growing grapes in his father’s vineyard. He continued to dapple in winery engineering working on some prominent winery infrastructure projects throughout his career. He also worked for SACA for many years.

Former ABC Journalist Annabelle Homer explores their rich experiences in grape growing, relationships with wineries and the closure of Quelltaler, how much the industry has changed with employing pickers and pruners, and the impact of technology on the grape growing industry.

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Episode: 2

Grape Growers Untold - Noel Smith and Roger Kimber

In this episode, neighbours from various generations gather for a conversation.

Roger Kimber, a fifth-generation grape grower from Stanley Flat, joined farming with his father in 1985 and took over fully after his father's passing in 2007. The Kimber family has a long history in Clare Valley's agricultural industry since the mid-1800s, with Charles Kimber, Roger's great-great-grandfather, being a pioneer in both flour milling and fruit growing.

Roger's great-grandfather, Madden Kimber, chaired Clarevale Growers Winery, later becoming Clarevale Cooperative.

In the 1980s, Noel Smith entered the industry, buying the vineyard next to the Kimbers. Originally a shearer from Booberowie, Noel transitioned to grape growing when his father-in-law acquired the land for alleged tax reasons. Over time, Noel thrived in the industry and ventured into winemaking, establishing Cardinham Estate Winery with his sons. The narrative takes a sombre turn, impacting not only the winery but also Noel's sons. In this open and reflective conversation, Roger and Noel share their life journeys, challenges, victories, and contemplate their future paths.

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Episode: 3

Grape Growers Untold - Lita Brady

Meet Lita Brady, one of the custodians of Wendouree, home to one of Clare Valley's oldest vineyards.

"Wendouree" is believed to originate from an Aboriginal term meaning "place of water." Alfred Percy Birks, arriving in 1892, partnered with his brother to farm, planting currants and wine grapes with some original vines from 1892 are still producing.

The winery, established in 1895, has maintained its practices for over 120 years. In 1917, A.P. Birks passed the reins to his son Roly, who continued the legacy for almost 70 vintages.

Roly's lasting presence saw him guiding Tony and Lita Brady when they took over in the mid-70s. Wendouree had a solid reputation, but the Brady’s enhanced it.

Lita spills some secrets to former ABC journalist and Clare Valley local, Annabelle Homer, sharing the 12-hectare vineyard's history, their use of traditional methods, and her vision for Wendouree's future in the Clare Valley.

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Episode: 4

Grape Growers Untold - Les Bryksy and Ian Smith

The episode introduces Watervale grower Les Bryksy and former Leasingham Wines vineyard manager Ian Smith. Les took over his father's Watervale vineyard in the '60s, after seven years in the Air Force. Ian, a share grower for Stanley Wine Company, later worked at Leasingham for 24 years. Les pioneered irrigation in the valley, and Ian managed 1,000 acres of vineyard, staff and growers. The interview includes their stories, with wives Marie Bryksy and Judy Smith joining for a chat.

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Episode: 5

Grape Growers Untold- Leo Faulkner and Martin Smith

In this episode, Martin Smith, a seasoned farmer and grape grower, is joined by Leo Faulkner, an experienced grafter with 70 years of viticultural knowledge. As distant cousins, they share a history in fruit gardens and ventured into wine grape businesses in the late 60s.

The conversation spans 65 years of grape growing, recalling moments like picking grapes on hands and knees and facing challenges like the 1983 bushfires. They discuss the highs of $4,000 a tonne for Chardonnay grapes in the 80s and the lows of the devastating bushfires.

The duo also reflects on growing grapes amid climate change and housing growth.

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Episode: 6

Grape Growers Untold - Bunny and Yvonne Peglidis

In this episode, we dive into the vibrant world of Bunny and Yvonne Peglidis, celebrated figures in the Clare Valley grape growing community.

Bunny's journey began at 12 in his father's Greek vineyard, later migrating to Australia at 21. From working at Quelltaler to founding his own vineyard, their story is a captivating blend of tradition and passion.

Bunny's path intertwines with Yvonne's, marking the start of a unique partnership in both life and the grape-growing community. For 65 years, Bunny and Yvonne have stood as a united team. Together, they've pruned, picked, and cultivated top-tier grapes, acclaimed by their close friend and winemaker, Kerry Thompson of KT Wines, as some of the finest in the valley.

Their remarkable journey has been far from easy; it's been a tale of relentless, back-breaking labour in the pursuit of grape-growing excellence.

Bunny and Yvonne stand out for their uniqueness. In running their Watervale vineyard, they adhere to traditional methods now considered obsolete in many vineyards across the country. Their commitment to heritage is truly exceptional.

Get ready for an entertaining chat with Yvonne and the unstoppable Bunny, now at a remarkable 90 years old. This conversation is a delightful journey through their life, full of stories that defy the slowing down of time.

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Episode: 7

Grape Growers Untold - Preview

This episode is a preview of what’s to come in the following six episodes.

In this episode, you will hear from:

  • James Halliday AM, International Wine Critic and Writer
  • Nick Ryan, Australian Wine Writer
  • Mitchell Taylor, Chair, Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association
  • Anna Baum, Executive Officer, Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association
  • Penny Lion, Bourke and Travers
  • A selection of featured grape growers
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