Robbed! In true Ned Kelly style.
That’s how the Australian wine community feels about Pernod Ricard Winemakers closing Morris Wines of Rutherglen. If the Australian wine community treated old wine folk like we treat old cellars, we wouldn’t just have the coppers on our tail, we’d have Amnesty International as well.
On Wednesday morning I had a phone chat with Peter Barry; he spoke so happily and proudly about 30 years of Florita Vineyard ownership. I could see how much it meant to him. He and the boys produced a humble video. Check out the old advertisement in it here.
Then I interviewed Chris Tyrrell, who cherishes family heritage like his dad and pop.
That same day I received a call out of the blue from Pernod Ricard Winemakers. Angus Barnes, brand heritage director, had an exclusive. “We’re closing Morris Wines in Rutherglen,” he said. “It’s a very sad day. You’re the only media to have this story.” Failing an eleventh-hour rescue, they are selling the assets but keeping the brand. And here we all are up in arms about having to have assets to access the WET rebate. We tweeted the bombshell with a link to our site and got record traffic.
Our Facebook story linking to the site was shared 97 times and reached 12,300 people. The industry reaction – deflation, disappointment and some anger – confirmed how much most of us cherish the people and places that have got us all to this very exciting juncture in Australian wine history. “Borderline immoral,” someone said on Facebook. “Bastards! This is what happens when you sell out to the multinationals,” said another.
Andrew Thomas tweeted: “Another sad example of dickhead corporate accountants making decisions affecting the very fabric of our winemaking history.” That got 14 favourites and eight retweets.
Peter Nixon said on Facebook: “Meanwhile Seppeltsfield is humming and set to ride the wave of success as fortifieds inevitably bounce back into fashion – following whisky, then gin.” It’s a hard one for a corporate: shareholders would hang you if you kept an asset purely for sentimental reasons – especially in these accountable times. The key is not selling to corporates in the first place.
The demise of Morris Wines comes after Treasury announced the closure of Seppelt Great Western winery and cellar door (a local white-knight has since saved it) and Rosemount cellar door in McLaren Vale, Treasury walking away with both treasured brands. It’s times like these that we appreciate what the Barry, Tyrrell and so many other families bring to Australian wine. Whoever came up with Australia’s First Families of Wine is looking more like a genius every day.
Tim Altschwager of Colliers International in Adelaide is in charge of the sale. Come on Wazza, you can do it. We spoke to David Morris three hours ago. We got the politest “no comment” ever. He looked forward to having a beer and a chat one day. He referred us to Pernod Ricard. Too sad.
In January Mick Morris spoke at a Ned Kelly book launch in Glenrowan. The Border Mail said Mick recalled family stories from his grandfather about Ned Kelly being “gentlemanly” but fellow gang members Steve Hart and Dan Kelly appearing as “lairs”. The outlaws still roam, Mick. The Morris family story was told so beautifully on Landline a month ago. Mick said in that video, “We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve continued the line.” The episode ended with his son David saying, “As always time’s the judge, but it looks pretty positive.” Such is life.