Picture this: five former Best’s winemakers, Best’s patriarch Viv Thomson OAM and current Best’s winemaker Justin Purser, all in a room accompanied by enough amazing aged and rare bottles to impress the best of the best wine media.
The occasion? One hundred and fifty years ago, on 18 May 1866, Henry Best was granted a license to occupy four blocks of land on which the Concongella winery and vineyards stand today. What a remarkable achievement that the Thomson family continues to produce wines from the vines that Henry planted all those years ago, using the same cellars and barrels installed at the winery in the 1870s.
So it’s this 150-year anniversary of Best’s continual production of fine Great Western wines that Viv Thomson was celebrating. At the lunch, Viv led a wine tasting like no other. It was a celebration of the combined 150-year history of two families. Importantly, it was also acknowledgement of the distinctive wines that have been produced over this prolific period and how each of the respective winemakers have had a role in evolving the brand to make the style of wines that we are proud to put our name to today.
From Viv’s perspective, the lunch was also a celebration of all that had gone before – from his father Eric and mother Mary, his Uncle Bill and his wife Jessie, together with Viv’s grandfather Frederick, who Viv believes worked through the toughest Best’s shift of all, between 1920 and 1960.
Their time at Best’s was difficult due to the boom and bust of the 1920s, then the Depression of the 1930s, followed by the war years, then the slow march forward as Australia resurrected itself on the back of the wool and agriculture industries of the 1950s.
Viv returned to the family fold at the winery in the 1960s to discover that Australians had begun to embrace table wines. And what a fantastic discovery that was. At that time, Victoria boasted 16 wineries. Current count goes beyond 800.
Viv is grateful for all the people who have helped stand Best’s winery in such confident stead among the industry and its loyal customers. Viv’s wife Christine is undoubtedly his greatest supporter – her efforts in accumulating so much of the Thomson family history in order to publish Best’s commemorative 150-year book are so appreciated.
Viv’s children all remain active at the winery in various roles. Ben is now at the helm as Managing Director. And Hamish, Yvette and Marcus have all contributed to the success of Best’s over the years.
So where did the celebration take place? Melbourne’s Jimmy Watsons’ Bar – it was such a fitting place in which to commemorate the day, given its history. It first opened as a wine merchant place of business in 1935, and has gradually evolved as a meeting place for lovers of wine to this day. Viv is honoured the Watson family agreed to host this special day.
Best’s history is coloured with so many acclaimed winemakers and on the day we were lucky that most of them could join us to discuss the wines of which they are most proud. Best’s current winemaker, Justin Purser (2011-present), was joined by Adam Wadewitz (2005-2011), Hamish Seabrook (2000-2005), Michael Unwin (97-2000), Simon Clayfield (88-97), and Sandy Mast (wife of the late Trevor 75-98).
So which wines were enjoyed?
Along with these rare and aged wines, we enjoyed the limited release wines that were crafted to commemorate Best’s 150th anniversary.