Tahbilk pioneered wine making in the Nagambie Lakes area of Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, with Rhône varietals such as Marsanne, Shiraz and Rousanne. Some of the original Shiraz vines from 1860 still survive. The Purbrick family has operated Tahbilk since 1925.
Tahbilk began as a public company founded by a local store-keeper Ludovic Marie, his friend Richard Henry Horne and banker John Pinney Bear, as a venture to bring prosperity to the district. Their investors included many prominent gentlemen including parliamentarians, the Swiss Consul, the Argentinian Consul-General and the Mayor of Melbourne.
In advertising to raise capital, they described the potential of the property:
“The position of the land, the quality of the soil, the proximity of the water, make the property the most desirable spot which could be selected for vine growing. The quantity of grapes produced by the few stocks of vine in the garden and at the house, is an indubitable proof of the capabilities of the ground.”
By 1876, Tahblik’s annual vintage output was around 31,500 litres (6,900 imp gal). The company was winning national and international awards and had even supplied wine to Queen Victoria. However, in the 1890s the estate went into decline until its fortunes were restored by Reginald Purbrick in the 1920s.
Vineyard plantings extend back to Tahbilk’s founding. Even when phylloxera decimated Victoria’s vineyards in the late 1870s, some of the original Shiraz vines survived. The modern winery has produced a Shiraz wine from them since 1979. In 2007, frost killed 40 per cent of these old vines, but Tahbilk continues to produce its 1860 Shiraz from the remainder. Tahbilk has other “old vine” plantings including Shiraz from 1933, Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1949 and Marsanne from 1927.
Known as Chateau Tahbilk until 2000, the estate is said to have derived its name from its location, which the local aboriginal people first referred to as “tabilk-tabilk”, meaning “place of many waterholes”.