RETIRED Rutherglen winemaker Mick Morris is still delighted when people compliment the Morris label on a 20-year-old bottle of wine they might have recently enjoyed and when the vines yield an outstanding vintage.
“It’s the satisfaction of seeing people drinking the wine and enjoying it,” he said.
“I’m kept as a consultant so that means I still taste and blend every season.”
Mr Morris, who made his first wine under the Morris label in 1953, is the fourth generation of a winemaking family that created Australia’s biggest winery at Fairfield estate near Rutherglen prior to 1900 until a phylloxera outbreak decimated the winegrowing district.
Today, he receives the medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for his service to the Australian wine industry and to the Howlong community.
Prior to his teens, Mr Morris remembers working in the vineyard with family members, washing bottles and tying down vines.
He completed a bachelor of science at university in Melbourne before studying wine making at Roseworthy College in South Australia, returning home in 1952.
For the next 40 years he oversaw winemaking at Morris, including the transfer from predominantly fortifieds to table wines and the introduction of durif as a dry red table wine.
“When I came into the industry, 85 per cent of our consumption was fortifieds; now it’s 6 per cent,” Mr Morris said.
“In 1954 we started making durif into a dry red table wine and because consumption of the fortifieds was going down and table wine was going up we made all our red varieties into dry reds, the durif, shiraz and blue imperial.”
The Morris family sold its winery to Reckitt and Colman in 1970 and it has since been taken over by another multinational, Pernod Ricard.
Mr Morris, whose son David has been the winemaker since Mr Morris retired in 1993, said his award was a shock and a thrill.
“It’s nice to be recognised at this time in my life,” he said.
While the Morris family name has been synonymous with wine, it also has a well-known connection to the Ovens and Murray Football League.
The Morris Medal, awarded to the league’s best and fairest player, has been presented by a member of the Morris family since 1933.
In more recent years, Mr Morris, who is a former president, board member and secretary of the Howlong Country Golf Club, has lent his family’s support to the expansion of facilities at the club.
“Our clubhouse started as an old army hut, but with voluntary labour we have developed from sand scrapes and no irrigation to the course we have today,” he said.
“It’s a good social environment and we’ve had many happy days there.”