Morris Wines saved by yellow-tailed knight
The way Pernod Ricard handled the sale of Morris Wines takes the breath away. After protracted negotiations with the Morris family ended in stalemate, Pernod Ricard began moves towards breaking up the business and selling off the assets. Things looked dire for fifth-generation winemaker/manager David Morris and the future of the Morris winery.
So he approached an old acquaintance from his days working in Griffith between 1981 and 1993, John Casella, head of the family firm that took Yellow Tail (tastings) to the world.
Casella and Morris had often met during this period while Morris was working at Orlando’s Griffith winery, Wickham Hill. The family relationship goes back further, though, as Morris’s grandfather, who once had a winery in Griffith called Chateau Charles, had bought grapes from the Casella family in the 1960s and helped them out of a spot, which the family never forgot.
Within four weeks, which must be a record for this sort of transaction, John Casella – seeing the urgency of the situation – made Pernod Ricard an offer and sealed the deal. The announcement was made on Friday that Casella had acquired full ownership of Morris Wines (tastings) with immediate effect.
Two hours before I received Casella Family Brands’ emailed press release, I received one from Pernod Ricard, triumphantly announcing that;
“David Morris has acquired Morris Wines and this includes the brand, winery, vineyard and cellar door.”
Only one problem. This was incorrect. Apparently, Pernod Ricard didn’t even know what its own people were doing.
Pernod Ricard Winemakers global operations director Brett McKinnon was quoted as saying:
“This is a great outcome for the Morris family. We are happy to see the winery return to David and we wish him the very best of luck.”
The good news is that Morris Wines will continue, it won’t be broken up and sold off, and the Morris family in the person of fifth generation winemaker David Morris will continue doing what they’ve done so well for 157 years.
“We were a small brand lost in a big group dominated by spirit brands,”
David Morris told me.
In the Casella statement, he said;
“I’m delighted that Morris Wines has been returned to family ownership. The Morris family has built Morris of Rutherglen into an iconic Australian brand and John Casella believes in honouring family legacy and winemaking tradition. The purchase by Casella Family Brands can only be a positive outcome for the winery, the brand, the region and the industry. We’re looking forward to embarking on the next chapter of our journey under the stewardship of Casella Family Brands.”