In the long history of Best’s, only six non-family members have served as our winemaker. All others have been either a Thomson or a Best. So, it’s a significant milestone for one of these few, our current winemaker Justin Purser, to celebrate 10 years’ tenure. Now, with a decade under his belt, Justin is a rich part of Best’s tapestry and has contributed much to the evolution of our style.
Our winemakers have played an essential part in the Best’s story. They are very much part of our family, and they share the Thomson family vision to produce regionally distinctive wines from the vines of which we are the custodians.
“Best’s is one of the few wineries in Australia that has a long track record of making medium-bodied and age-worthy wines that celebrate natural extract and finesse rather than volume and power,” Justin says. “Best’s consistently makes high-quality wines, vintage after vintage, even though our Great Western volume has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Getting to know the idiosyncrasies of the vineyards and the cellar allows us to make good decisions in the winery, which result in good wines.”
Although a decade is a significant achievement for any team member, as Justin points out: “A decade a Best’s seems so short when we are able to make wine from vines that are more than 150 years old.”
Justin brings a wealth of international experience and perspective to Best’s Wines. After graduating from The University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Science in Oenology, Justin honed his craft at several renowned wineries, including Primo Estate winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia (also the home of Joseph Wines) for three years. From there, he moved overseas, where he worked vintages at Peregrine Wines in Central Otago, New Zealand, which is well-known for its premium Pinot Noir. Next, it was on to the Old World, where he worked in Barolo at Azienda Brezza Giacomo e Figli, a producer of fine Italian wines. From 2008 to 2011, Justin supervised a team at Domaine de Montille in Burgundy, where he oversaw the production of Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines.
“That experience taught me how to express regionality without relying on artefact, such as overworked fruit and oak,” Justin says.
In November 2011, Justin relocated from France to become our winemaker at Best’s, and he’s been with us ever since. In the following video, we look back to 2012, when Justin had just joined the family. Here, he shares his story about the moment that drew him into wine.
It’s never been about the accolades for Justin; though he was a 2017 Len Evans scholar, he’s humble and prefers to let the wines speak for themselves. However, some of the notable awards that Best’s has received during Justin’s time include the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy in 2012 for the 2011 Bin No. 1 Shiraz and Halliday’s Wine of the Year in 2016 for the 2014 Thomson Family Shiraz. His time also saw our Thomson Family Shiraz elevated to the highest and rarest status – exceptional – in the current Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VII.
The Jimmy Watson award story is a particularly satisfying one. “When I started at Best’s in 2011, there had been a very wet and difficult vintage,” Justin says. “Despite the challenges, I wanted to make a really solid 2011 Bin No. 1 Shiraz, as this is the most important wine the winery produces.”
In 10 years, the market has evolved, too, Justin notes. “More consumers now look for wineries like Best’s that make wines that can be drunk in their youth or in maturity – wines that are made for enjoyment.” This philosophy of approachable wines has long been part of Best’s, and Justin has continued to refine and tweak these styles of wine throughout his tenure.
So, what’s next for Justin and his vision for Best’s? The opportunities remain plentiful, with new Great Western vineyards to source from and wines to create. “We have some new plantings planned of Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir at an elevated site in our Sugarloaf Creek Vineyard,” Justin says. “I love these varieties and I look forward to seeing these vines mature and making wine from them.
Cheers to you, Justin! We’re looking forward to more great wines from your capable hands over the next decade.