How a winemaker from Delaware came to Dorset – and joined Propeller

Corinne O’Connor, our new Operations & Marketing Co-ordinator

The Propeller team is growing steadily so today we thought we’d tell you about Corinne O’Connor, our new Operations & Marketing Co-ordinator.

There’s something really special about what’s happening with wine in the UK, and that’s why Corinne O’Connor moved across the Atlantic. The UK has always been the most sought-after market for producers to break into, and now with an emerging domestic wine industry, it’s arguably the most exciting place to be in the wine world.

Corinne began her career in wine shortly after university. Previously working in politics for United States Congressmen and running statewide campaigns in the state of Delaware, she ‘found’ wine by attending wine classes for fun at a shop in Wilmington, DE that quickly became an obsession. “Growing up, my mom didn’t drink alcohol very often but when she did, she’d buy nice German Rieslings or St. Émilion Bordeauxs, and once I started tasting more wines in a classroom environment, I knew she had been on to something”

Corinne landed a job as a wine sales rep at a highly regarded midsize importer based out of Baltimore, MD. It was there she took an interest in producers. The importer itself didn’t focus on any particular region or style of wine, and with a portfolio of over 3,000 SKUs, bi-monthly sales meetings became incredible educational opportunities to taste wines with producers in person, ask questions, and simply soak up as much knowledge as possible.

When the company was bought by a national firm in 2017, she took the opportunity to find a production role, “I didn’t live in California, or a state known as a wine-producing region, but I lucked out when I contacted what I thought was the best local winery to me, and their female head-winemaker had never had a female apprentice before, the stars aligned and I felt like I’d won the lottery.” Corinne did her apprenticeship at Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery in Kennett Square, PA, an award-winning winery that regularly receives double golds from the IWSC.

After moving to Dorset in 2019 with her husband, Corinne continued to gather production experience at some very well-known vineyards and wineries in Dorset. She decided to take a step back and work on creating her own brand after the 2020 harvest.

Championing small producers and getting their bottles in the hands of consumers has always been at the forefront of Corinne’s mind. “I think once you see yourself as an advocate for producers who are making amazing wine, that never goes away, and that’s what drew me to Propeller. The entire ethos and business plan made a lot of sense to me. It’s not too different from the producer-focused importer I worked for in the US, and if there’s something I understand even better now, as a producer myself, it’s what producers want and need from other industry partnerships.”

Corinne is currently building a winery and preparing for the 2021 harvest in Dorset, while also helping to ramp up Propeller efforts to make it the best launchpad possible for producers who are new to the UK market. “I’m already loving being back in a role where I get to speak to producers around the globe again. I feel like I’m able to ask different, and better, questions now to help them succeed in this market, and hopefully, we will be able to give them the best chances possible to build relationships (and sales) here.”

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