Joseph and Henry Best immigrated as children to Australia from Surrey, England in 1834. The family first landed in Tasmania but moved to Melbourne soon after. In the 1850s, the brothers moved west to Ararat, Victoria, with thousands of other fortune seekers in the Victorian Gold Rush. The Bests were entrepreneurial types and saw more profit in looking after the miner’s requirements, so they formed a butchery business supplying meat to the miners.
In 1865, Joseph Best noted the early success of the first wine growers in the district and planted vines for himself with cuttings from the original St Peters Vineyard nearby. The following year, his brother Henry established his own vineyard to the west, named after the Concongella Creek. Henry planted 30 hectares of vines with about 3km of frontage along the creek. He named the property Concongella.
While his knowledge of wine was minimal, Henry’s capacity for work was profound. He built the original winery and underground cellars using his own hands and the skilled labour of local gold miners; both are still in working use today.
The Thomson Family
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, he 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, establishing 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. A neighbouring property Fairview was purchased for sparkling grapes.
By his early 20s, Frederick Pinchon was ready to take over the business and William returned to Melbourne to pursue his baking interests. In 1924, on a return sea voyage from their native Scotland, Mrs Thomson died suddenly and two days later, William Thomson followed his wife, dying quietly in his sleep. Both were buried at sea.
His son Frederick, now in sole charge of the winery, bought the Best’s business from Henry’s son Charles Best and the rights to use the Best’s Great Western name for £10,000 and 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 and the 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, re-naming it 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 and, like his parents 25 years before him, passed away far from home in Hong Kong. His sons Frederick and William, both born and bred with viticulture, were well placed to take over the Best’s business, which continued to flourish throughout the 20th century.
AND VINEYARD MANAGER
Best’s Great Western is today run by fifth-generation family member, Ben Thomson, who has worked in the family business for over 30 years.
Ben is passionate about maintaining Best’s historically important vineyards, many dating back to the 1860s. Ben has a love of the land and a fascination with applying new viticultural and harvesting techniques. You’ll often find Ben driving the tractors throughout the Best’s regional vineyards, tending to the vines and researching some of the more unique varietals planted. For a change of landscape, he’s also a keen water skier throughout the summer months, one of Ben’s Best Kept Secrets.
Born and raised in a small New Zealand country town, Brigitte studied a degree in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in Canterbury.
She has perfected her craft in some incredible places including Martinborough, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, Canberra, Western Australia, California and now, proudly, Great Western. Brigitte believes winemaking is the perfect marriage of science and creativity and is committed to crafting delicious wines that people can enjoy. She loves the craze and excitement of vintage each year and is thrilled to have joined Best’s for vintage 2019 and beyond.
Justin Purser brings extensive international experience and perspective to Best’s Wines. After graduating from Adelaide University with a Bachelor of Science in Oenology, Justin worked at Primo Estate Wines in 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, well known for its premium Pinot Noir, and Azienda Brezza Giacomo e Figli in Barolo, producer of fine wines from Italy.
WINE CLUB MANAGER
& LOCAL WHOLESALE
Nicole grew up on a dairy farm near the banks of the Murray River in Cohuna, Victoria. One of 4 (1 brother and 2 sisters) she’s always been a country girl. After finishing high school Nicole worked in the family business for several years before moving to Melbourne for a change of scenery. With a desire to see Australia, Nicole travelled and worked in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Bendigo and Ballarat before finally settling in Great Western.
NATIONAL SALES MANAGER
Graeme Hogan looks after all things sales st Best’s Wines. From a single bottle sale at cellar door to a multi-case order on the other side of the globe, Graeme is keen to ensure the experience of all our customers is positive. Graduating from Queensland University of Technology with a business degree, Graeme has worked with wine companies of all sizes. From multi-nationals such as Pernod Ricard and Constellation Brands to boutique family businesses such as Pirramimma, Graeme has become a well-known identity in the Australian wine trade.