Tyrrell's, one of Australia's oldest family-owned companies, has sold its value-oriented Long Flat brand to Cheviot Bridge, an Australian wine company started in 2001 by a group of former Beringer Blass executives.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but the purchase involves the brand name, about 300,000 cases of bottled wine and roughly 500,000 gallons of bulk wine. The deal is expected to close this week.
Long Flat wines sell in the United States for $8 to $9, and often rate in the mid-80s on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. The first Long Flat wine was a generic red from the 1966 vintage bottled under the Tyrrell's label. A Long Flat White was added in 1984 at the request of the U.S. importer. Recently, Tyrrell's spun off Long Flat as a separate brand that includes varietals such as Chardonnay and Shiraz and varietal blends such as Sémillon—Sauvignon Blanc.
CEO Bruce Tyrrell said that selling the brand will allow the Hunter Valley—based winery to buy more vineyards and focus on other brands.
Cheviot Bridge, which is based in Melbourne, will continue to market the Long Flat wines under the Tyrrell's label for three months in the United States while it is selling off the current stock. The company will make future wines with purchased grapes at the same contract wineries that make Cheviot Bridge's other low-priced brands -- CB and Kissing Bridge. Adding Long Flat to its portfolio brings Cheviot Bridge's total production to about 500,000 cases.
"We've put our resources primarily into people and distribution, rather than building wineries and vineyards," explained Hugh Cuthbertson, marketing director for Cheviot Bridge. In an e-mail, he added, "Effectively, we have built a 10-tonne [11-ton] truck of a distribution company in the U.S. and Australia … that only has 2 tonnes on it."
Cheviot Bridge was started by Cuthbertson (whose family owns vineyards in Yea, in the high country near Australia's Yarra Valley), three other family growers and several colleagues from what was called Mildara Blass, before it became Beringer Blass. The group includes winemaker David O'Leary, who had been responsible for developing the Black Opal line for Blass.
Cheviot Bridge's flagship wines are made from grapes grown by the four growers who are partners in Yea. The best of those wines, including a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir priced at $16 to $17, have scored around 87 points.
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