Thomson Family Shiraz
The Thomson Centenary Shiraz was created in 1993, to celebrate the centenary of the Thomson family settling in the area of Great Western. This special single vineyard wine was made from the 15 rows of the original 1868 Shiraz vines, planted by Henry Best, and once referred to as ‘Hermitage’ in Henry’s daily journal.
Today, this wine is only made in the very best vintage years and is called Thomson Family Shiraz.
In the past 20 years, only fourteen Thomson Family Shiraz (TFS) wines have been made. Wine specialist Andrew Caillard MW has classified this wine as “Outstanding”, one above “Excellent” for TFS’s sibling Bin No. 0. Mr Caillard says, “Best’s Thomson Family Shiraz is one of Victoria’s greatest wines and represents a window to Australia’s winemaking past. Like Henschke Hill of Grace and Penfolds Block 42 in the Barossa Valley, the Best’s Concongella Vineyard 1860s plantings at Great Western belong to Australia’s rich heritage of ancient genetic and pre-phylloxera vineyards.”
The 15 rows of original vines produce only very small amounts of fruit. They are cropped at less than two tonnes per acre (four tonnes per hectare) and are meticulously hand-harvested, selected and sorted. Only 300 cases of our flagship wine are released in our very ‘best’ years. This flagship wine drinks very well now, but its potential is revealed over time, cellared away and brought out to celebrate the good things in life.
The vines are referred to by the CSIRO as the Concongella clone and it is the mother clone of all subsequent Shiraz plantings at Best’s Great Western.
The Langton’s Classification for Thomson Family Shiraz is ‘Outstanding’:
“The particularly rare Best's Thomson Family Shiraz is one of Victoria's greatest wines and represents a window to Australia's winemaking past. Like Henschke Hill of Grace and Penfolds Block 42 in the Barossa Valley, the Best's Concongella Vineyard 1860s plantings at Great Western belong to Australia's rich heritage of ancient genetic and pre-phylloxera vineyards.
"The fifteen rows of dry-grown Shiraz vines, well over 145 years old, are the source material for the Thomson Family. It is a rich, generous wine with brilliant blackberry meaty fruit underpinned by cedar oak and gravelly tannins. The wine is open-fermented in small ‘tubs’ and then matured in a 50/50 combination of new and old oak for approximately 24 months”.
Halliday Wine Companion 2017 Wine of the Year
Best’s Thomson Family Great Western Shiraz 2014
"There were two ways of seeking fame and fortune in the Victorian gold rush decades of the second half of the 19th century. One was to buy a miner’s licence, a high risk with an occasional high return. The other was to feed hungry miners and slake their thirst with wine and/or beer.
Brothers Joseph and Henry Best were in the latter camp, opening a butcher’s shop in Ararat. Realising it was only a question of time before the gold ran out, Joseph planted his first vines in 1862. As they grew and came into bearing, and the gold became scarcer, he employed out-of-work gold miners to excavate the massive underground drives (or cellars) of today’s Seppelt. Henry Best followed suit in 1866 by planting vines on a 30ha property he acquired at nearby Concongella Creek.
One 1.02ha experimental block had 32 varieties, including what is now the oldest pinot noir and pinot meunier in the world, but there was also a small block of 15 rows of Shiraz planted in 1867.
It is commonplace for wineries to release an icon wine for the first time saying it will only be released in the best vintages, but then releasing it virtually every year. Since 1992 (the first release), this wine has been made in 14 vintages, and not made in nine. Indeed, since 1999 it has only been made every second year.
It’s obvious that the self-set standards have been stricter with a succession of highly qualified winemakers, none more so than present incumbent Justin Purser (and before him, Adam Wadewitz). The fruit selection is rigorous; some of the fruit from the 15 rows was discarded, replaced by fruit from mature vines grown by cuttings taken from the old block.
That the wine is not ‘stretched’ with younger material is self-evident given the number of years it is not made at all, and that 2200 bottles were made in 2014, compared with (for example) 4200 in 2010.
It is open-fermented in small tubs, and matured for 18-24 months in French oak; there is no recipe for the percentage, nor for the percentage of new oak (usually around 50%, but can be higher).
It is handled with kid gloves in the winery, as the tasting note on page 110 shows. It is a truly glorious wine."
Halliday Wine Companion 2017: Wine of the Year