By Andy Young

John Casella, the managing director of Casella Family Brands (CFB), has told TheShout that he is excited about the future of Peter Lehmann Wines (PLW), after buying the company last year.

After reporting a financial loss for the first half of the year, Casella said this was to be expected because of the purchase of PLW as well as other tough market and economic conditions.

Casella told TheShout: "There are obviously high costs associated with the change in ownership that have had a significant impact on the overall loss reported. Other causes can be attributed to external market conditions and a volatile economic environment. The challenges the Australian wine industry has faced as a result of factors such as the exchange rate, sentiment towards Australian wine overseas and increased competition from California and Chile has made for difficult times for many producers."

Although reporting a loss is obviously disappointing Casella remains optimistic about the causes of the loss and what the future will bring.

"The report is a reflection on trading for the six months to December 2014 and CFB only completed the acquisition in mid-December 2014. This report therefore provides a foundation for us to build on and presents exciting opportunities. We are already seeing increased sales in key markets which is a great result within the first few months."

In terms of the future for PLW, Casella remains upbeat about the brand and the quality of the wines now being produced.

"At the moment our focus is on delivering a high quality vintage and judging by the excellent quality fruit we are seeing, we are anticipating some fantastic 2015 wines," Casella said.

"We are excited by the prospect of growing the PLW brand around the world and building on the legacy that Peter Lehmann has created both here and overseas. The integration is an evolving process and our intention is to approach it with integrity and take the time we need to ensure we are making the right decisions for the long term success of the business. If we begin to see an uplift in sales by the end of the financial year, that would be a fantastic achievement."

While Casella did say that delivering on value was one key factors for the group, creating "exceptional wines with varietal and regional integrity" was at the heart of "everything we do" across every price point.

He added: "As the category continues to premiumise, we see a real opportunity for the Australian wine industry to rebuild its reputation as an exceptional wine producing nation. Our hope is that building awareness of the  PLW portfolio and the launch of the ‘Casella’ range of premium wines not only drives growth for the business but also helps to put Australia back on the map and builds consumer sentiment towards Australian wine.

"We are excited about what the future holds for the entire CFB portfolio – we now have a quality wine offering at every price point, with fruit sourced from the country’s best wine producing regions. Our job now is to focus on brand building, selling and distribution around the world."

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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