Rutherglen’s Morris Wines has taken out the prestigious Wine Producer of the Year award at the 2020 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London.
Morris also won Fortified Wine Producer of The Year, while Wolf Blass won International Red Producer of the Year and Four Pillars won International Gin Producer of the Year.
IWSC described Morris Wines as being one of the “headline winners” for taking the title for overall wine producer of the year in recognition of its fortified wines.
Winemaker David Morris said: “This is the most significant award the winery has won in its 160 years of operation. As the fifth generation winemaker I am very pleased and proud to accept this award on behalf of the four previous generations of winemakers who have all played a part in making these wines.
“Thank you to the people who have supported us over the years by buying our wines, hopefully this is testament to the great quality of the wines that we make.”
It was a sweet victory for Morris, which almost closed in 2016 when its parent company, Pernod Ricard, decided to shut the cellar door and sell the vineyards and the extensive stocks of fortified wines.
Casella Family Brands head John Casella (pictured above) stepped in and saved Morris.
“I’d like to thank John publicly for keeping our doors open,” David Morris said at the winery’s 160th celebration lunch, his voice catching with emotion. “I’ve had a friendship with him since the 1980s when I worked in Griffith.”
IWSC goes virtual
For the first time in its 51-year history, IWSC hosted its annual awards ceremony online, as a broadcast on YouTube Premieres. Hundreds tuned in around the world to watch the drinks industry’s top-performing people and producers crowned, including the team at Four Pillars (pictured below, celebrating their win).
It wasn’t just the event that went virtual this year – the IWSC also decided not to create physical trophies. Instead, the team felt it would be more appropriate to donate the money usually spent on the gongs to The Drinks Trust, in order to support the individuals most affected by the year’s events.
“This event is an occasion to celebrate, reward and recognise the great achievements made by all, both socially and commercially,” said IWSC CEO Christelle Guibert, introducing the awards from Ridgeview Wine Estate in Sussex, whose CEO Tamara Roberts is the 2020 IWSC president.
Four Pillars Co-founder and Distiller Cameron Mackenzie said: “After the year we’ve had and the exhaustion we have felt, I couldn’t quite believe it when they called out our name. I was wearing my full kilt for good luck, same as I did last year in London, and I don’t think I will take it off all day, maybe all week.
“This is a triumph for strength over adversity, for professionalism and passion in the face of what sometimes in 2020 seemed insurmountable odds. This is a victory for every single person in the Four Pillars world but most particularly for everyone at Healesville who has faced so much uncertainty and difficulty this year but has never stopped putting in the hard yards.”
Wolf Blass Chief Winemaker Chris Hatcher said: “We are very proud with the continued recognition we have received at one of the most respected and prestigious wine competitions in the world.
“It is particularly exciting that our wines continue to be honoured and recognised for their quality and value.
“As a winery, we thrive on producing award winning wines and it is humbling that Wolf Blass continues to be so well received at an international level, helping pave the way for Australian wines.
“This is a very special reward and recognition of the dedication and hard work our winemaking and viticultural teams put into making exceptional quality wines and I am extremely proud of them.”
Watch the ceremony below: