Giuseppina Bisa grew up in the alpine foothills of the Veneto region, the same part of Italy as Vittorio De Bortoli. They agreed to marry but neither of them could see a future in Italy, where food shortages and lack of opportunity dragged on in the years after the war. When Vittorio decided to migrate to Australia, Giuseppina agreed to follow him once he had found a place for them to live.
It was four years before she was to see him again. During that time she moved to France to work as a maid, saving the money that would pay for her passage to Australia. She travelled the long sea journey on her own, landing in Sydney where she was met by her brothers (eventually – they were late), who then travelled with her to Griffith.
The time she spent in France came in handy for more than just the money. Giuseppina learned to speak French fluently and so when she first moved to Bilbul to marry Vittorio she was able to barter English lessons for French ones with the local schoolteacher. And when it became increasingly apparent that Vittorio’s wine would become their primary source of income, she ordered French winemaking textbooks that she then translated, helping Vittorio improve the quality and the quantity of his wine.
Giuseppina and Vittorio married in 1929 and she was integral to the success of the business from then on. Not only did she manage the books and the business correspondence, but Vittorio constantly came to her for advice in the day to day running of the business. When he did so, he jokingly referred to her as “bossa”.
But Giuseppina was not just a business manager. She also ran the household and had three children Florrie, Eola and Deen. It was a busy life but there was one aspect of all the busy-ness that Giuseppina was grateful for – it allowed her an excuse to escape the cooking, one of her least favourite things to do. Luckily Vittorio loved to cook and supervise what was being served each day. He also created the tradition where they would all – family and farm workers both – sit down to eat lunch together every day.
Giuseppina’s intelligence and hard work were crucial to the solid foundations of the family business. With her, it was able to flourish.