On Friday 20 October, 2017, Best’s patriarch Eric Vivian Thomson, known as Viv Thomson among his wine industry peers and his family and friends, was announced Legend of the Vine, Victoria, at the annual WCA Royal Melbourne Wine Show Awards Lunch. Viv received his Legend of the Vine status for his service to the wine industry as one of Australia’s longest serving winemakers.
“Viv has made an outstanding contribution to the wine industry and is a highly respected figure amongst his wine peers in Australia,” said WCA National Chair Angus Barnes.
“His list of accolades, including his 2014 Order of Australia Medal, is a true reflection of where his reputation sits within the industry, and why he is recognised as Victoria’s newest Legend of the Vine.”
Viv’s wine family lineage dates back five generations. Born and raised in Swan Hill, he moved to Great Western as a six-year-old boy where his grandfather, Frederick Thomson, owned Concongella Vineyards in Great Western. Winemaking has always been a part of Thomson’s family – in 1920 his great grandfather William Thomson purchased Best’s Great Western where Thomson spent majority of his career managing operations and working as chief winemaker.
A graduate of the acclaimed Roseworthy College in South Australia, Viv spent three years studying agriculture before taking a crash-course in winery analysis. After returning from two years abroad, he joined his father Eric running the vineyard and making wine at Best’s Great Western, and managed two wineries 230km apart, one at Great Western and one at Lake Boga.
During the Christmas periods of his working years, Viv would close the doors of Best’s Great Western, as there was no cellar door to manage. He spent a week behind closed doors examining each barrel to ensure it was meeting industry expectations and would plan a 12-month program for the business before harvest came around again.
Since taking up the winemaking role in 1962, Viv has completed a whopping 51 consecutive vintages and was acknowledged for his service to the wine industry by being awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the General Division as a part of the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Best’s now operates across six vineyard blocks including Rhymney Vineyard, Concongella, Thomson Family Block, Nursery Block, Bart’s and Marcus, and The Hill Block. The winery’s Concongella and Nursery Block were planted in 1868 by Henry Best, Best’s Great Western original founder and are acknowledged as a collection of Australia’s (and in some variety’s cases, the world’s) oldest blocks of vines.
Since handing over the reins of the Best’s Great Western business to his eldest son Ben in 2008, Viv has been recognised by the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival as a “legend” for his services to the wine industry and was also President of the Victorian Wine Industry Association for many years.
The Legend of the Vine Award was first introduced in Victoria in 2014, and extends across New South Wales and South Australia with annual awards issued in each state. The nominees from each state are nominated by the WCA Board and State Chapters, with the final winner determined by the WCA National Board.
Viv Thomson is the fourth person to be awarded Legend of the Vine status in Victoria and joins a prestigious national list that includes Colin Campbell, Ross Brown and Kathleen Quealey.
Watch Viv speak about his wine legacy and his view of the future of the Australian Wine Industry.