tahbilk vineyards

This road and its old spreading trees lead to Tahbilk Winery, the oldest organized winery in the state of Victoria, Australia. Some of Tahbilk’s wines were featured in this great article by Robert Horvat that ran earlier this week about the history of wine in Australia, and this place features prominently in that history. The first vines were planted here in 1860 by Hugh Glass, in collaboration with other investors (one of whom was found dead under mysterious circumstances shortly after the winery was founded). I believe some Shiraz varietals–eventually the varietal for which Australia would become world-famous–were the first grapes planted here.

In the 1860s no one had any real expectation that Australia could become a significant wine-producing region. As Robert points out in his article, that quickly changed. By 1873 Australian wines were competitive with French and Italians at European exhibitions. Tahbilk unfortunately was in decline after its new owner, John Pinney Bear, died in 1889. Until the 1920s the winery was a small shoestring operation, but then expanded under new ownership beginning in 1931. However, Tahbilk never lost touch with its illustrious past. The wine tower (pictured in Robert’s article), built in 1887, was still in use, as were some of the original cellars dating to the 1860s. They continue to be in use today.

The Purbick family, who purchased the winery in 1931, have long been advocates of environmental stewardship. In fact Tahbilk is partially a nature preserve, hosting various endangered or threatened species, and the winemaking is done according to a sustainable plan. Thus one of Australia’s oldest wineries is also on the cutting edge of the future–in the era of climate change, viticulture simply cannot survive in the 21st century without adopting sustainable and environmentally responsible practices.

I’m told their wines are excellent, too!