Best’s historic Concongella collection
The oldest patch, known today as the Nursery Block, was planted by founder Henry Best in 1868 between the winery and the Concongella Creek. It contains 39 different grape varieties, eight of which are still unidentifiable despite the visits of several world-famous ampelographers over the years. One of these experts in grapevine identification pronounced that a red variety Best’s had been labelling as ‘malbeck’ for many years was in fact dolcetto. Such is life. We live and learn.They are priceless as expressions of a unique vineyard which is a wonderful historical relic.
Cuttings from the riesling in the Nursery Block were exported back to Germany after it was realised that the official German vine collection at Geisenheim did not contain this particular clone.
It’s probably little known outside cellar-door visitors that Best’s produces a dry red and a dry white from these ancient vines. The white is labelled Concongella Blanc, and during a recent visit I picked up a bottle of the 2017 and 2020 to taste. Also a bottle of the 2020 Nursery Block Dry Red. The whites were priced at a very reasonable AUD $35, the red AUD $45.
These are true ‘field blends’ as the grapes are all harvested simultaneously and fermented together, the only distinction being red and white are fermented and bottled separately.
The red varieties are tinta amarella, aubun, grec rose, carignan, dolcetto, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, morocain noir, mataro, gamay, pinot noir, olvette noir, pinot meunier, and fer.
The whites are furmint, palomino, sauvignonasse, chasselas, muscadelle, dourado, ondenc, troyen, gueuche, gouais, calitor blanc, chenin blanc, gordo, piquepoule, bourboulenc, sauvignon blanc, frankenthal, and riesling.
In Henry Best’s day, the shiraz was known as hermitage and the pinot meunier, miller’s burgundy. Together with malbeck (dolcetto), these were deemed the most suitable varieties for the area by the 1890s.
According to the Nursery Block Dry Red back-label, Henry Best recorded the names of some of the red varieties as black prince, bad bearer, rough leaf, grand turk and the ‘underrated’ pinot dru. The naming of grape varieties was not the precise science it is today.
The wines are very good, if not great. They are priceless as expressions of a unique vineyard which is a wonderful historical relic.