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Discover our Best Kept Secrets…
Best’s Wines is one of Australia’s oldest and continuously family owned an operated wineries. Our history is a rich tapestry of stories dating back more than 150 years.
The timeline below tells the story of how two families collide and Best’s Wines Great Western evolved over 150 years, producing world-class wines that are now acclaimed, enjoyed and loved all over the world.
The story of Best’s begins in 1866, when Henry Best purchases 30 hectares (73 acres) of land in the small town of Great Western, 230km North West of Melbourne. It was a property named Concongella.
Henry plants the first vines in 1868. Best’s original vineyards, planted in the 1860s, are among the oldest and rarest pre-phylloxera plantings in the world. The invaluable Best’s Nursery Block contains almost 40 varieties (some unidentified to this day) and are thought to be sourced from the Busby collection, Australia’s first vines.
Best’s becomes a functioning winery by 1869, although it takes more than 6 years to complete the project.
Best’s Wines workers and family in the late 1800’s
The Melbourne International Exhibition 1880, a table of results with Henry Best awarded in the Second Order of Merit and Joseph Best presented with a Third Order of Merit certificate.
The Great Exhibition Centennial International Exhibitor Mr H Best awarded a Third Order of Merit certificate of award for his 1985 Chablis.
Looking west, a view of Great Western from the Concongella vineyard
Scottish born William Thomson also settles in Great Western and purchases Lorimers Vineyard and winery at Rhymney (13km south of Henry Best); At this time he renames it St Andrews.
William Thomson awarded Second prize for White wine, in the 1895 Ararat Agricultural, Pastoral and Horticultural Society show. The fruit was grown in the St Andrew’s vineyard at Rhymney.
William Thomson sells St Andrews to his son Frederick Pinchon. William returns to Melbourne to life as a temperance caterer.
In the early 20th century, Henry Best presented his wines throughout Europe and was awarded gold medals in Paris, Bordeaux, Brussels and London.
Best’s Great Western trademark is registered (number 5067) – one of Australia’s earliest wine company trademark.
Frederick (Eric) Hamill Thomson is born.
William (Bill) Hamill Thomson is born.
Henry Best dies age 81 and is buried in Great Western cemetery.
Fredrick P Thomson signs the Contract of Sale with Charles and Joseph Best (Henry Best’s sons), to purchase the Concongella Vineyard.
In 1920 the famed Melbourne to Adelaide flight took place. To aid the pilots in navigation, local businesses on the ground were asked to paint signs on their roofs, Best’s Wines commissioned William Thomas Lewis, a painter from Stawell to paint the winery name on the top of its cellar door as a race landmark.
This painted sign has remained clear and crisp for viewers from the skies ever since.
Read more about The History Behind the Sign.
William Thomson was presented with Third Prize from The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria in the Grand Annual Exhibition, Melbourne.
The Thomson family purchases a vineyard at Swan Hill called Misery Farm- renaming it St Andrews in memory of the first vineyard.
Bank hands back the keys to the Concongella vineyard to the Thomson family.
Eric Vivian (Viv) Hamill Thomson born.
Metal lettering stencils used to name barrels.
Flood at Concongella vineyard January in 1946.
Best’s Wines presented with a Very Highly Commended certificate, awarded by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria at the Royal Melbourne Coronation Show.
Working in the vineyard.
View from the historic underground cellar at Best’s Wines.
Viv Thomson joins his family for his first vintage.
Benjamin Hamill Thomson is born, fifth Thomson generation.
Hamish ‘Bart’ Thomson born. Bart’s Block Shiraz planted at Best’s Concongella vineyard.
Pictured with 3rd generation Frederick (Eric) Hamill Thomson, William (Bill) Hamill Thomson, 4th generation Eric Vivian (Viv) Hamill Thomson, 5th generation Ben Thomson.
Originally known as Miller’s Burgundy, Best’s Old Vine Pinot Meunier was first produced by Viv Thomson in 1967.
Read more about Pinot Meunier, one of the oldest grape varieties growing at Best’s Wines, first planted in 1868.
Viv among the Concongella vines.
Viv Thomson decided to appoint the first external winemaker, Trevor Mast. Best’s Wines had grown significantly, as well as Australian Wine on the whole and Viv was needed to manage the company and develop relationships further afield.
Image of Best’s Cellars
Chris Thomson in vines with snow.
Simon Clayfield appointed winemaker at Best’s Wines.
Wine naming conventions are forced to change. French naming conventions are no longer permitted outside of France. Hermitage changed to varietal, Shiraz.
1992 vintage of flagship Thomson Family Shiraz is released to commemorate 100 years since the Thomson family settled in Great Western.
A property close to the original St Andrews homestead at Rhymney is purchased.
Michael Unwin appointed winemaker at Best’s Wines.
Hamish Seabrook appointed winemaker at Bests Wines.
Best’s Wines cornerstone wine Bin No. 1 Shiraz is made for the first time.
Adam Wadewitz appointed winemaker at Best’s Wines.
Viv Thomson hands over reins of the company to son Ben.
Justin Purser is appointed winemaker at Best’s Wines.
Best’s Wines 2011 Bin 1 Shiraz wins Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy at Royal Melbourne Wine show.
Best’s celebrates 150 years having been established in 1866.
The Concongella vineyard at Great Western succumbs to a once in a decade frost event, meaning we were unable to produce our premium wines in 2018.
Best’s Wines purchase Hyde park and rename it Sugarloaf Creek, a significant addition to the Best’s portfolio, ensuring protection against frost and increasing water security into the future.
Langton’s classifies Best’s Thomson Family Shiraz as ‘Exceptional’ and Best’s Bin 0 Shiraz as ‘Outstanding’.
Best’s Wines awarded Best Value Winery of the Year in James Halliday’s 2021 Wine Companion.
The Thomson Family celebrates 100 years as custodians of Best’s Wines.
Best’s Wines accepts the inaugural Old Vineyard of the Year trophy from the Young Guns of Wine awards.
Ben Thomson holding a bottle of the 2021 Foudre Ferment Riesling, winner of the 2023 Halliday Wine of the Year, Best White wine of the Year and Best Riesling of the Year.
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