Best’s Great Western and Clonakilla join Australia’s First Families of Wine

Photo: Best’s Great Western managing director Ben Thomson. Image courtesy of Best’s Great Western

Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) says it is thrilled to announce the inclusion of two iconic wineries, Best’s Great Western and Clonakilla, into its prestigious group. This expansion elevates the AFFW membership to 12, further strengthening the collective’s mission to celebrate and promote the excellence, heritage and diversity of Australian wine around the world.

Strict criteria govern membership to this group, of which multi-generational succession is only the beginning. Also important are exceptional vineyard sites exemplifying the best of terroir as well as ‘iconic wines’ of lengthy pedigree. Environmental best practice and a long-term commitment to exporting their wines to the world are also paramount to the collective.

AFFW says these characteristics and more distinguish Best’s Great Western and Clonakilla.

Best’s Great Western

Established in 1866, Best’s Great Western is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected wineries. Located in Victoria’s Great Western region, Best’s is renowned for its rich vineyard resources, particularly its focus on Shiraz. The winery boasts some of the world’s oldest pre-phylloxera vines, making it a true viticultural treasure. The Thomson family, who have owned the winery since 1920, continue to uphold the tradition of producing high-quality wines that reflect the unique Great Western terroir. Best’s winemaking philosophy focuses on crafting small parcels of wine with minimal intervention, showcasing the distinct characteristics of their historic vineyards.

Ben Thomson, managing director and fifth-generation family member, expressed his excitement.

“It’s an honour and privilege to join Australia’s First Families of Wine. As a

fifth-generation family business, we value the unique perspective that a family business [brings].

“My dad, fourth generation Viv Thomson OAM is particularly chuffed to stand alongside so many friends and colleagues who have pioneered this industry over many decades and share a vision and commitment to making exceptional Australian wine. Times may be tough at present, but these families have a true love of the industry and respect for people in it.”

Clonakilla, Canberra District

Clonakilla, founded by Irish research scientist John Kirk in 1971, has grown from a small family venture into one of Australia’s great family wineries. Located in the Canberra District, Clonakilla is celebrated for its Shiraz Viognier, a wine that has garnered numerous accolades and established the winery’s reputation for excellence. Tim Kirk, John’s fourth son and current chief winemaker, has been instrumental in the winery’s success, and since August 2023, Tim’s brother Stephen has taken on the role of CEO, ensuring the family legacy continues to thrive.

Tim Kirk shared his thoughts: “First Families of Wine is a powerful vision, highlighting a vital dimension of wine in Australia: the contribution of families! We are honoured to join such a brilliant community of passionate, like-minded wine families with a proven, multi-generational commitment to quality and innovation”.

Speaking from Hong Kong’s Vinexpo – where members of the AFFW collective are currently sharing their unique stories with the world – Chester Osborn, the 8th chair of AFFW warmly welcomed the new members.

“We are delighted to have Best’s Great Western and Clonakilla join AFFW. Both wineries exemplify the dedication to quality, heritage, and family values that define our group. Their inclusion not only strengthens our collective mission to promote and celebrate the rich diversity of Australian wine but also enhances the depth of our shared stories and offers and look forward to further opportunities to share our best-kept secrets. The families involved represent wineries with similar values and a shared understanding of the landscape and opportunities which makes us stronger as a collective group.”


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