Sexist post sparks change in Australian wine industry

Friday, 9. March 2018 - 9:30


A social media post by a leading Australian wine figure, which was widely condemned as sexist, has proven to be the catalyst for change within the Australian wine industry.

As a result of a Facebook post on February 6 by Darren De Bortoli, managing director of De Bortoli Wines, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) – on which De Bortoli sits – has moved to introduce an industry-wide code of conduct.

An eight-member working group drawn from within and outside the industry has been established, and is expected to take around six months to complete the code which will embrace industry “values” together with gender diversity and equality.

“We should have done it a long time ago,” said Winemakers’ Federation of Australia chief executive, Tony Battaglene, “but at least we are making progress now. We’ve not been as reactive on this issue to where I think community expectations are.”

Brian Walsh, Wine Australia chair, called the decision “fantastic.”

De Bortoli’s post involved a photo of two young women treading grapes in a wine barrel, with the accompanying caption: “Whip me, crush me, make me whine (sic). I love the idea of all those nubile virgins vigorously squishing my grapes during vintage time.”

The post was widely criticised as sexist and a demeaning portrayal of women in wine. Members of De Bortoli’s family, including his mother, Emeri, who chairs the company, and brother, Victor, the company’s export director, distanced themselves from his post, and were at pains to emphasise that it did not represent the views of the company.

“Your facebook (sic) opinions are yours and yours to keep,” wrote Victor De Bortoli on Facebook, “but as the rest of us have been dragged into this I just need to give a rare public social media post.

As a father of 4 with 2 young daughters, the original posts are not ones I am good with. Keep in mind that 4 out of the 5 adult 4th generation De Bortoli’s are strong females and one day very soon will merge into the family business.”

Darren De Bortoli’s comments  also drew the ire of his fellow WFA board member, Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards, who placed a comment on his Facebook page, reminding him of his role as a leader in the Australian wine industry.

“When leaders such as yourself makes comments such as these, it makes it so much harder for women such as myself to be taken seriously in my work,” she wrote. “It also makes it okay for this sort of everyday sexism under the banner of humour to be normalised.”

De Bortoli, who turns 58 this year and heads a company that is the seventh largest wine producer in Australia, removed the post and apologised for any offence his words created. However, he remains upset at the attention it brought his company. “I think it was used to push an agenda which is to do with the level of women in [Australian] wine production, and unfortunately I was the target of the criticism. That’s what probably upset me the most, because we’re [De Bortoli] actually over 50 per cent [women employed].”

He added that he would think twice before posting anything further on the subject. “It’s not worth the aggravation.”
Jeni Port