EATS & DRINKS
WINE: 07 SEPTEMBER 2014
By JOHN ROZENTALS
Best's Great Western ... generations of great red wine
I’m not going to say that the corporate high flyers don’t know anything about producing top-quality wine. The continuing success of Penfolds Grange as one of the world’s most highly acclaimed reds certainly shows the bean counters know full well how to hire great winemakers and provide them with the time and goodies to produce the very finest.
But it’s the mid-sized family-run wineries, the ones that have three or four generations of history behind them, that really press my buttons when it comes to creating interesting bottles.
Yalumba, Tyrrells, Grant Burge and McWilliams spring immediately mind. Another, maybe a little less known, is Best’s Great Western, about midway between the Victorian cities of Ararat and Stawell and not far from the Grampians National Park.
It’s been in the hands of five generations of the Thompson family since it was purchased by Scottish-born William Thompson and his son Frederick Pinchon Thompson for £10,000 in 1920.
William died in 1924 and it must have been tough going for Frederick to take the business through the Great Depression, but survive it did and passed into the hands of his sons, also named Frederick (Eric) and William (Bill), in 1949.
Probably the most famous of the clan is Eric’s son, Eric Vivian Hamill Thompson OAM, known to just about everyone as Viv. He worked more than 50 consecutive vintages at Best’s Great Western and became one of the country’s most respected wine judges.
He reckons he’s retired now and spends most of his time travelling with his wife Christine, but he knows the business is in the sure hands of his son Ben, who has a particular passion for maintaining the family’s historic vineyards.
Father and sons tasting shiraz ... from left, William ‘Bill’ Thompson, Frederick Pinchon Thompson and Frederick ‘Eric’ Thompson.
Best’s Great Western 2012 White Gravel Hills Shiraz
Best’s Great Western 2013 Bin 1 Shiraz