Best’s 150th Anniversary Tasting

On a slightly grey Melbourne day, a select group of wine writers boarded the mini bus from Tullamarine Melbourne Airport to head to a tasting of Best’s Great Western celebrating their 150th anniversary, with the Thomson family and the remaining wine makers (RIP Trevor Mast) present. There was the usual greeting of colleagues flying in from all corners of the globe at the airport. A  somnambulant Nick Ryan spoke of Nick Stock and room service Club Sandwiches in euphemisms while Winsor Dobbin was being Winsor. We arrived at the reputable Jimmy Watson’s in Carlton, headed upstairs to a cozy, standing room only chamber to find the excellent team from Fireworks PR had prepped the room ready for the presentation of a vinous history of Best’s Great Western.

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As the family fielded general questions before the winemakers took over on the specifics, Viv Thomson was asked what he saw was the biggest challenge in growing grapes and making wine in Great Western. He replied that the distinct lack of water is the main issue as the subsoil dries out. He see this being a cyclical 20 year issue. My family still work the land, every farmer thinks the same Viv, every farmer.

The whites were presented first…..

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Foudre Riesling, 2015

Winemaker: Justin Purser

Justin advises we “Smashed the new foudre to take the overt oak from it” but it still made its presence felt. Pretty smells, soft lime, just oak nuttiness to give point of difference. Delicious texture, quartz minerality of the region allows the structure to carry long with lime pips and cumquat.

Great Western Chardonnay, 2011

Winemaker: Adam Wadewitz

Cool vintage. Adam is a big fan and reckons Chardonnay “can be a freaky wine in the right years.”

Peach fuzz and popcorn notes, cheese slices. Bright centre of fig and lemon fruit wrapped tightly. Finishes with well structured  acidity and elegance.

Great Western Riesling, 2003

Winemaker: Hamish Seabrook

Bottled under screw cap. Mature nose starting to develop with a small amount of plastic aroma, aspirin spritz, smoke, flyspray yet with primary florals. Quite a grip with powerful phenolic texture. Rocks, zest, still very primary gentle lime/cumquat citrus. Note: an approx 13.5% ABV

Great Western Chardonnay, 1998

Winemaker: Michael Unwin

Michael advises that sometimes the Chardonnay block gets frosted, showing that Great Western can get cool. Mature nose, brown sugar caramels, preserved lemon, turning to dairy. Still with nutty, fresh stonefruit flavours, elegance, light rockmelon and primary oak spice. Well aged with plenty of time left.

Great Western Riesling, 1995

Winemaker: Simon Clayfield

Simon mentioned that there was “Delicacy from 1990 onwards” due to the advances in technology in pressing, filtration and vinification. Pressings were left over for the “Victoria” labelled Riesling….else it was sent for brandy!

5 weeks cold settling. Slight seaweed, iodine, baked limes, preserved /dry fruits, a touch of animal musk note, sweetish lime panna cotta. Still with full texture, but fruit lying low. Zings with acid after all is said and done.

Great Western Riesling, 1977

Winemaker: Trevor Mast

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Tying to get through the cork and oxidation. Lime marmalade nose, whilst a touch of residual sugar seems to just keep a small spark alive. Others in the room had a better example. Shame as this is my birth year wine.

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Great Western Rhine Riesling, 1974

Winemaker: Trevor Mast

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Labelled “Hock.” Soft mushroom cap age, pith and quartz. Time has marched on but there’s still an elegant structure, even if light bodied, with the ghost of cumquat fruit haunting the palate.

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In between the Whites and the Reds, the Fireworks team were quick to change over whilst one of my favourite wine people, Sophie Otton finishes off her notes.

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Bin 0 Claret, 1967
Winemaker: Viv Thomson

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Sourced directly from the cellars of Best’s. No new oak. Lightly spiced and woody, just starting to see a Vegemite secondary note, roasted meat jus, prunes, light iodine, just fired shotgun wad, champignon mushroom. Mature with toffee, spiced plums, dark raspberry fruit, black pepper, light sandy tannins. Still very much alive,  absolutely delicious. A treat to taste.

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Hermitage Bin 0, 1981

Winemaker: Trevor Mast

Sweet marshmallow, coconut Iced Vovo, dog fart meaty note and black fruits. Core of sweet fruit with just American oak coconutty, vanillin note. Blackberry fruit and sandy tannins, warming and a touch of a herbal finish. Full bodied and showing little sign of slowing down.

Thomson Centenary Shiraz, 1992

Winemaker: Simon Clayfield

Opaque, primary, oak shavings and toast,  white pepper,  shiny plums, tiniest amount of animal hide. Blackcurrant, sour plums, gritty tannins, earthy and graphite minerality. Ridiculously young. Tastes like it could have been made in 2002…

Great Western Pinot Noir, 1998

Winemaker: Michael Unwin

Smoky, graphite, boysenberry, black cherry, dark and sparky. Quite brooding, savoury balanced with a dark heart of fruit. Tannins are firm, drying (oaky). A unique beastie among the line up.

Bin 0 Shiraz, 2001

Winemaker: Hamish Seabrook

Pencils, mineral, aromatic, earthy, cracked black pepper spice, dark fruit, kindling campfire smoke. Minerality and savoury qualities with dark, black fruits and just pruney. Tannins are sandy sheets and still mouth coating. Still strong with teeth cutting acidity, brooding and powerful.

Racked twice only.

Thomson Family Shiraz, 2006

Winemaker: Adam Wadewitz

“Amazing to be involved with these great, old vineyards. You get addicted to them.”

Fresh cuddly oak, parmesan cheese rind, lemon tart, tight pippy berries and black pepper. Full palate, deceptively primary. The tannins are firm, the fruit is dark, fresh and still beautifully balanced.

“Ticks every box” Simon Clayfield.

Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier, 2014

Winemaker: Justin Purser

Chambord like fruit smells, cinnamon, orange zest, light lipstick, baby white mushroom cap, minty/eucalypt.

Medium palate with drying but still refined tannins. Dark cherry flavours float above the structure, feels like a parallel, dual palate…the structure and tannin moving underneath that fruit. Fresh, minty, raspberry and cherry.

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Another small break before the special releases were poured…

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PSV 141, Pinot Noir, 2014
Winemaker: Justin Purser

PS stands for the “Pig Sty” vineyard and  141 references the number of vines which are are 148 years old. Potentially the oldest Pinot Noir vines in the world.

Oranges and smoked bacon, delicate, yet powerful and refined. Intense black cherry, that hits hard then peacock tail to ethereal phantoms with orange juice like puckering acidity. Tannins are almost perfect for such a young wine, but the potential for age is immense.

The Concongella, 1868 Vines, 2013

Winemaker: Justin Purser

“Put our minds to what wine would have been made like in the 19th century.”

300l hogsheads. 50%PM with a dash of 2015PM, dolcetto (malbeck from the original notes)and shiraz.

Perfumed, purple, almost fresh ferment smells, fruits of the forest ice cream, smoky notes. Spice and pepper, with stemmy tannins. Some oak influences nowm but very unique and a wine of place.

Sparky’s Block Shiraz, 2014

Winemaker: Justin Purser

1970 vines. 1st individual wine from the vineyard, loam soils.

Sandy, black, cassis, perfumed with soft white pepper. Fruit forward from youth, but tight raspberry jube with bright bright aspects. Stays playful with tension, and a flirty promise of the future.

FHT Shiraz, 1999

Winemaker: Michael Unwin

Frost year. Dark fruit, blackberry, mint and eucalypt, pencil with breakfast plum/prune that blossoms to pretty flowers. Balance is still outstanding, dark plum, just chocolate, yet the body and flavour still youthful. Tannins are still firm and present. An elegant shiraz.

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I attended as a guest of Best’s Great Western and Fireworks PR

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