The Thomson Family
William Thomson arrives in Australia
William Thomson arrived in Australia from Scotland in 1876 where he learnt the baking trade. After a stint working in Melbourne at his own bakery and catering business. William sold it in 1892, and moved the family to Western Victoria.
William purchased Lorimer’s, an orchard, vineyard and working winery at Rhymney, the hilly country behind Ararat. It happened to be 13km south of Henry Best. Together with his 16-year-old son, Frederick Pinchon Thomson, William built a new homestead and called the property St Andrews. Between 1892 and 1900, the property steadily increased, with the purchase of the Lorimer’s Vineyard in 1893. This established the Thomson family as one of Victoria’s most successful wine families.
In 1908, Frederick Hamill Thomson, better known as Eric, was born, followed by William Hamill Thomson in 1911. As the Thomson family expanded, so did the business. Eric purchased a neighbouring property Fairview for sparkling grapes.
By his early 20s, Frederick Pinchon was ready to take over the business. William Thomson returned to Melbourne to pursue his baking interests. In 1924, on a return sea voyage from their native Scotland, Mrs Thomson died suddenly. Two days later, William followed his wife, dying quietly in his sleep. Both were buried at sea.
Purchase of Best’s Concongella vineyard
His son Frederick, now in sole charge of the winery, bought the Best’s business from Henry’s son Charles Best. Purchasing the rights to use the Best’s Great Western name for £10,000. Fredrick added the Concongella Vineyard to the Fairview and St Andrews Vineyards.
Economic decline and The Depression forced the sale of the original St Andrews Vineyard in 1927. The Thomson family homestead was relocated to the Concongella property. Then, in 1930, pioneering the wine industry in the Swan Hill region, the family purchased a small-holding called Misery Farm. Misery Farm was re-named St Andrews in memory of the first vineyard.
In 1949, Frederick developed an acute surgical condition while on a sea voyage to the Far East. Sadly like his parents 25 years before him, passed away far from home in Hong Kong. Frederick and William, the next generation, both born and bred with viticulture, were well placed to take over the Best’s business. Best’s Wines continued to flourish throughout the 20th century.
Frederick Pinchon’s son Frederick (Eric) continued the family dynasty with his son Eric Viv Thomson. Eric known as Viv has become one of Australia’s longest working winemakers. Viv is a graduate of the acclaimed Roseworthy College and is the fourth-generation vigneron at Best’s. Viv has more than 60 consecutive vintages under his belt. Best’s owes its reputation and numerous accolades to Viv Thomson.
Viv has been recognised by the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival as a “legend” for his services to the wine industry. He was also President of the Victorian Wine Industry Association for many years, recognised with a Distinguished Service Award. Viv was acknowledged for his services to the wine industry by being awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the General Division as part of the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Viv Thomson’s son, Ben, is now Managing Director and Vineyard Manager for Best’s. He has worked with the family business for more than 30 years and brings passion and viticultural experience to his role as the Thomson family custodian of Best’s Great Western. Viv’s second son Hamish is Victorian Regional Sales Manager, and brings an ardent passion for ensuring the business is run as smoothly and coherently as possible.