As far as storytelling goes, it doesn’t get much better than Best’s. The vineyard was started by Henry Best back in 1866, and handed down to his son, Charles. Charles eventually sold the vineyard to the Thomson family who, four generations later, are still there, still making wine from the same vines planted 150 years ago, and very proud of it.
Today’s Thomsons, Viv, wife Chris and son Ben, wanted to honour not just their own family in the telling of the Best’s story, but also the Best family. Each chapter tells the story of the Best or Thomson man (for they were all men) who steered Concongella, the property and Best’s Wines, the business, through droughts, depressions, wars and climate turmoil. Clearly, winemaking is not for the faint-hearted.
Our favourite thing about this story, and what sets it well apart from many others, is the personal touches added by the Thomson family. In the kitchen of Concongella stands a heavy, old wooden table. It’s been in that kitchen for a century at least – the Best's left it behind when they sold to the Thomsons – and it has of course seen all the ups and downs that the past 150 years have had to offer. This table is the heart of Concongella, the heart of the family, and the heart of the business. So of course it is also the heart of the book. At the end of each chapter, the Thomsons allowed us to take a flight of fancy, inviting key players in the Best’s story from decades and centuries past to sit at the table together, share an imaginary meal, a laugh and – of course – a bottle of wine. The meals they share are those often cooked by Chris, Viv’s wife, and she has generously allowed us to include those recipes in the book.
Reading the Best’s book, we're immediately struck by the fact that at its very heart, Best’s is a family business. We love that the Thomson family include the Best's as part of their family, and we love that we’ve managed to capture some of the wonderful stories about life on the land that would otherwise have eventually been lost forever. What an heirloom.