Mary Retallack

Viticulturist, Managing Director

Whether she’s donning workboots to check the health of vines in the field or putting on a lab coat to examine the DNA of grape pests, Mary Retallack’s focus is advancing SA’s wine sector.

As Managing Director of Retallack Viticulture, Mary works closely with wine growers and winemakers to enhance fruit quality and yield, while growing fruit that is ‘fit for purpose’ in response to market trends.

I grew up on a fruit block in the Riverland where we produced wine grapes, drying grapes and table grapes. But I didn’t realise I could have a career in the wine sector and I left home at sixteen to study at uni to become a park ranger. Through a series of fortuitous events, I found myself helping to establish the viticulture and wine studies program at Onkaparinga Institute of TAFE, just as the wine sector was taking off in the mid 1990s.

Over the past two decades I’ve worked in Australia and overseas as a viticultural lecturer, project leader, extension specialist, vineyard manager, in cellar operations, and as a viticulture consultant and researcher.

As a viticulturist, I see a very positive future for the wine sector that will be amazingly different with new business models, new grape varieties and new technologies, such as nanotechnology and robotics. The possible applications are quite mind-blowing.

My interest in natural resource management and environmental stewardship has influenced my current PhD studies which has two focuses: identifying native vegetation that can be used to boost populations of predators for natural biological control of key vineyard pests including Light Brown Apple Moth; and research using DNA barcodes to ultimately help us better control key vineyard pests, naturally.

My smartest decision was starting my own business, albeit during the GFC. If you can survive that, you can survive just about anything in business.

One thing I’ve learned is it’s important to create healthy boundaries between your work and personal life. Say yes to opportunities, as you never know where they may lead. But don’t over-commit. It is ok to say no occasionally too! It’s a balance.

My best advice is do the things you love to do and be the best you can be. Offer a point of difference to set yourself out from the crowd. Be brave and persistent, generous and kind. Don’t take no for an answer if you know there is a better way, or if you can create one!

Quote : "For the wine sector to reach its full potential, we need to fully utilise the diversity and skills of both men and women."

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