Purchased by the Purbrick family in 1925, Tahbilk is the oldest family-owned winery and vineyard in Victoria, Australia. As proud custodians of Tahbilk Estate, the family has been at the forefront of sustainability, ensuring Tahbilk’s rich heritage, winemaking style and unique natural environment is protected for the enjoyment of all for many years to come.
The Purbrick family’s interest in Tahbilk started in London in the early 1920s with an offer to Reginald Purbrick of a glass of Chateau Tahbilk brandy, accompanied by the words ‘This might be of interest to you, Purbrick. Perhaps Reg was reminded of this event when he decided to purchase the property sight unseen in 1925.
Reg’s son Eric, who inherited Tahbilk as well as his father’s refined palate and love of wine, returned to the Estate in 1932 amid the Depression, forgoing his law degree.
His son John quietly rebuilt the marketing arm of the business whilst gently encouraging Alister to become the first formally trained winemaker in the family.
And it is the next generation, led by Alister’s daughter Hayley, who has brought the winery into the 21st century, ensuring the family leaves a sustainable legacy for future generations.
Generational family ownership is no mean feat and comes with many learnings along the way. It isn’t often you find a family business successfully handed down from one generation to the next without friction. There is an art of knowing when its time to move from leader to supporter or visa-versa. It’s a fine balance which in many ways has led to the smooth succession over five generations in the Purbrick family. That being said you can’t ignore the pure commitment of two members of the family who have dedicated their life’s work to furthering Tahbilk; Eric and Alister Purbrick; fondly known as the founder and the protégé.
The first member of the Purbrick family to truly sink their teeth into Chateau Tahbilk was Eric Purbrick. Arriving in 1931, after a decade of neglect, he set about revitalising the winery, intent on turning its fortunes around.
In doing so he mastered the craft of winemaking, established marketing and distribution networks, instigated promotion and advertising campaigns and began showing Chateau Tahbilk wine and winning awards at wine shows after a gap of 30 years. Eric soon bought the quality and consistency of the wine back to that of its golden age of the 1880s. His venture at Chateau Tahbilk kept him busy for the next 60 years.
Described by wine-writer James Halliday as a ‘formidable gentleman’, a fitting sobriquet for such a man.
Striking parallels exist between Eric’s arrival to Chateau Tahbilk in 1931 at the age of 28 and Alister’s arrival in 1978 at the age of 24. Both men had come determined to turn the winery around. There were many similarities between the state of the vineyard, as well.
Alister emulated his grandfather, approached the job with intelligence, enthusiasm and vigour. He was eager to prove his ability to make wine using modern techniques – and in a different way to his grandfather. The one distinction between the two men was that Alister was a qualified winemaker whereas Eric had learnt his craft ‘on the job’.
Alister led Tahbilk for more than 45 years and; like his grandfather, has been an influential force in ensuring the wine’s pedigree remained intact, continuing to produce wines of great style, sophistication and longevity.
At the forefront of the Purbrick family vision is sustainability. The family has been at the forefront of sustainable wine tourism since the early 1990s. Recognising wine tourism has both a positive and negative impact on people and the environment, it is the ambition of the Purbrick’s to ensure all negative impacts are reduced such as damage to the natural environment and positive impacts are increased which includes local job creation, cultural heritage preservation and land conservation.
The family, under Hayley Purbrick’s guidance, has also sat at the forefront of climate and environmental action.
Tahbilk is a carbon neutral winery, accredited since 2013 under carboNZero with Toitu Envirocare. This means that, through a transparent process of measuring emissions, reducing those emissions and offsetting residual emissions, net calculated carbon emissions equal zero.
Tahbilk continues to be one of only 8 wineries globally to achieve this accreditation at a product and organization level, the ‘2022 Toitu Brighter Future Award for Climate Action’ having achieved the greatest percent change (ie. Closest to zero). Since beginning the GHG emissions reduction journey Tahbilk’s GHG footprint has reduced by net 45%. The family continues to strive to display industry climate leadership.
The Purbrick family are also deeply engaged with the sustainability of the Australian wine industry. Eric, John, Alister, Mark and Hayley Purbrick have all worked, or are currently working, with wine industry bodies as executive members, serving on a range of committees. The family recognises service to the industry and collaboration is critical to ensuring the Australian wine industry remains responsible, dynamic and supportive long into the future.