Vale John Purbrick

Reginald John Stevens Purbrick — former managing director, marketing director and chair of the board of Victoria’s oldest family-owned winery Tahbilk, the father of former CEO and winemaker Alister Purbrick and the grandfather of its environmental manager Hayley Purbrick — has died aged 93.

Known as John, he was born in London on the 2 February 1930 and came to Australia with his parents, Marjory and Eric, settling at Tahbilk Winery 1931.

Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, John boarded from the age of six until he left school as a 17-year-old when he embarked upon an initial stint as a jackeroo in the Western District of Victoria and the Riverina of New South Wales in 1948.

He travelled to England in 1949 before returning to jackerooing in Australia in 1951.

By this time, he had developed excellent horse-riding skills and regularly competed in country race meetings which often resulted in a top three finish.

John met Bonnie McAllister at the Deniliquin Picnic Races in 1952 and married her in June 1953 by which time he was managing his own rice farm at Moulamein on the Edward River in NSW.

He decided to sell this property in 1955 and return to Tahbilk to work with his father and manage the sizeable farm on the estate. In 1970, he was promoted by his father to general manager of Tahbilk before his final promotion to managing director in 1975. John continued in this role until he handed over the reins to his son Alister in 1980.

John Purbrick

John also gave back to the local and wine communities and served on the Shire of Goulburn from 1962-1964 and the Victorian Wine and Brandy Producers Association, now Wine Victoria, as well as other industry committees.

He moved to Sydney and set up the Stone Wine Company in 1979, which distributed Tahbilk and other wine brands in NSW. This company was a remarkable success and increased Tahbilk’s sales quite dramatically in that state.

After the national distribution for Tahbilk was handed to Rhine Castle Wines in 1982, he decided he did not want to return home but wanted to try something quite different. John began with the Regent Hotel as their first sommelier at Cables Restaurant from 1983 to 1985. After leaving Cables Restaurant he had various stints as a delivery man and jack-of-all-trades in Sydney and  returned to Tahbilk as marketing director from 1989 to 1995 before being appointed chairman of the board.

“There is no denying that John has led a fascinating, happy and, for most part, healthy life and his family and friends celebrate a life well lived for over 93 years …. a record for a Purbrick male,” said the Purbrick family in a statement. “John loved change, he pursued and embraced change and he was no stranger to controversy. We will miss this unique man, miss his strengths, and miss his flaws and quirks, because this was what made John Purbrick the man he was.”

John died peacefully at Nagambie Health Care on 22 June 2023 and is survived by his former wife Bonnie, their three children, Alister, Debbie and Mark, eight grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

A memorial service to celebrate John’s life will be held at the Tahbilk Wetlands View Restaurant on Tuesday 15 August 2023 at 1.30pm AEST.

The memorial service will be live streamed. Visit Tahbilk’s website after Tuesday 8 August for streaming log in details.