The 'Concongella' estate takes its name from the picturesque Concongella creek that runs beside the vineyard. Climatically cold to very cold winters and frequently dry and cool summers, with occasional bursts of hot weather, are the norm. Ben Thomson believes a little stress concentrates grape flavour; at Concongella it happens naturally.
Despite these natural adversities, Concongella consistently produces high quality grapes of intense flavour. The vineyard is a blend of old and new plantings, and the grapes for the Best’s Great Western Icon wines are grown and sourced from the Concongella Vineyard.
At this vineyard, we have five important blocks of fruit that relate to the history of Best's and our award-winning, cool-climate Shiraz for which Best's is now famous.
These gnarled old vines in the oldest Shiraz vineyard at Best’s Concongella Vineyard grow in soils that range from hard-setting silt over clay to friable clay loams. In great vintages, all of this fruit goes into the Thomson Family Shiraz. If the fruit doesn’t make the grade, we use it selectively in Bin No. 0.
In great vintages, all this fruit goes into the Thomson Family Shiraz. If the fruit doesn’t make the grade, we use it selectively in Bin 0. In the old days, these vineyards were known as two separate sections: one was known as “11 rows” and the other as “four rows”, also called the "pigsty vineyard", due to the fact that the pigsty used to be beside the vineyard.
The vines are picked separately to keep the rows apart. We’ve spent a lot of time mulching heavily around the vines with straw to help retain moisture and encourage healthy bug activity, and they’re now looking fantastic.
The fruit from this block is predominently used in our flagship Thomson Family Shiraz, however this wine is only made during exceptional vintages and is therefore sometimes not released. During these vintages a small parcel of Thomson Family Shiraz is then used during the final Bin No. 0 Shiraz blend. The dry-grown vines of the historic Thomson Family block have roots that penetrate several metres down deep into the earth, and so brings extra complexity and intensity to the Bin No. 0 Shiraz.
Watch Justin explain the nuances of this special piece of earth in this short video.
Best’s Nursery Block within the Concongella Estate is undeniably one of the most significant patches of vines in Australia. Established by Henry Best in the late 1860s, this block is a 1.2-hectare (2.9 acre) vineyard believed to feature the most extensive pre-phylloxera plantings in Australia, and possibly the world. Within the collection, there are more than 39 separate varieties planted, eight of which remain unknown and un-named to this day. International viticulturists visit often, looking to research and take cuttings. It’s a living museum and a vital part of our history – Best’s takes very seriously its role as the custodians of this important piece of earth.
Today, the vines are hand picked, beginning with the white varietals, then followed by the red. The Nursery Block fruit is made into two wines, a dry white called Concongella Blanc and the Nursery Block Dry Red – these are exclusive to Best's Cellar Door. Wine is not produced every year but when it is made, the resulting wine is incredibly unique, a classic ‘field blend’ giving an amazing sense of place.
More information is available in our Nursery Block Handout.
Our Managing Director and Fifth Generation Ben Thomson takes you through this special vineyard in this short video.
In 2010 we commenced a project to protect these vineyards and take cuttings of such historical vines. Our Managing Director Ben Thomson talks (circa 2012) about the Nursery Block replanting project and why it’s so important in preserving these vines by taking cuttings and replanting.
White Gravels Hill Block
The Thomson family originally settled on the site for this block as a way to avoid damaging frosts during extremely cold winters. In 1969, they first planted Chardonnay in the paddock next door to where Shiraz now grows (much to the dismay of others as this variety was not fashionable at the time).Watch this video about the White Gravels hill block.
In 1992, the team then planted Shiraz next to the Chardonnay site and it thrived. Shiraz proved to suit this site much better than Chardonnay. Much has been said about this site’s similarity to the best Syrah vineyards in France’s Northern Rhône, with its top soil of white quartz gravel and granite over granite bedrock, but they couldn't claim to have known this at the time! The team just needed a spot to grow healthy grapes, and it turned out to be perfect for Shiraz.
The fruit from this Shiraz block has unique characteristics and goes into our single vineyard White Gravels Hill Shiraz. A small parcel of fruit is selected and used in our final Bin No. 0 Shiraz blend.
Bart's & Sparky's Block
Viv Thomson returned from overseas in the 1960s and, at that stage, the industry was starting to gain momentum. Best's had lots of old plantings but some were in poor condition.
After pulling out some of the underperforming vineyards, the first of which was in 1966, we replanted the block with Shiraz vines, then re-named as Bart’s Block, as 1966 was the year Viv's second son, Hamish (Bart) was born.
This Shiraz block sits next to the old homestead in a corner of the Concongella Creek, which borders the Best’s vineyard. It sits on three different soil types from sandy soil at the far corner near the creek, through to the hard-setting silt over clay, in the middle and finally gravel and quartz based soil near the homestead. This vineyard shows a lot of strength and body. The intense, aromatic fruit from this vineyard forms the backbone of the Bin No. 0 Shiraz.
Watch this short video about this block:
1970 Sparky's Block
This impressive vineyard of heavily trunked vines sits along the Concongella Creek and was planted as part of our expansion plans in 1970, the year the youngest Thomson brother Marcus, nicknamed Sparky, was born.
After clearing wattle trees, we planted Shiraz and later Pinot Meunier and Ondenc, too. The Thomson's have always maintained that it takes about 10 years for the vines to mature. Viv oftens says, “Vines are like children – they don’t make a lot of sense until they become young adults”. So lucky for us, by the time Shiraz was becoming popular in the 1980s, our vines were starting to hit their straps.
The fruit from this block provides some of the power in Bin No 1 Shiraz & Bin No. 0 Shiraz, with strong and intense dark fruit flavours and peppery spice. The fertile alluvial loam over clay provides the complementary “yang” to the “yin” of the 1966 Bart’s Block.
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