A family tradition reaches a 50 year milestone

In the early 1960s Australia’s wine and food scene was not nearly as diverse and exciting as it is today. There were no culinary icons, meat and three veg still ruled the table and you were most likely to consume fortified wine. Yet by the turn of the decade attitudes towards food and wine had shifted from the 6’oclock swill to enjoying liquor as a leisurely drink with food.

Innovative by nature, the Purbrick family took advantage of the change in community attitudes opening the first ever Cellar Door in the region in November 1969 as soon as legislation was changed allowing wineries to sell direct to the public.. Now 50 years on and the original cellar door continues to pave the way for a vibrant tourism economy in the Nagambie region.

The beginnings of the Cellar door started without any fanfare. Legislation of the time ensuring all liquor was locked away behind cyclone wire screens out of hours, but the Tahbilk cellar door was finally open for business.

Eric Purbrick serving customers in the Tahbilk Cellar Door 1969

Eric Purbrick had long been pioneering varietal labelling in Australia. Unhappy with the use of generic wine labelling such as moselle, burgundy, hock or claret he sought to argue against their pointless application.  The cellar door opening enabled him to take his fight against generic labelling up a level by teaching visiting wine lovers about this very cause. The success of varietal labelling culminated for Tahbilk in 1979 with the inaugural release of the 1860 Vines Shiraz. The distinct Shiraz and Marsanne varieties, so perfectly suited to the Nagambie region, have become synonymous with the names Purbrick and Tahbilk.

With a growing interest in wine continuing Eric sent his first newsletter to his dedicated following in 1971. By the late 1980s the Australian wine and food industry was evolving alongside the establishment of the International Slow Food movement, Taste Festivals and the introduction of new licencing laws allowing for a glass of wine to be served at cafes. The opening of Melbourne’s first bar (The Dog’s Bar in St. Kilda) occurred, fast food eateries started to pop up as well as community gardens.

In 1988 the Liquor Control Act was introduced which saw the Tahbilk Cellar Door being able to remove the ugly lock up cage and so ensued a tidy up of the Cellar Door area to be more visually appealing to the public. The coming decade would see Tahbilk boom as a tourism site despite the recession, Tahbilk taking the plunge to formalise Eric’s newsletter to create the Tahbilk Wine Club in 1993.

The Tahbilk Cellar Door was complemented in 2005 with the addition of the Tahbilk Wetlands View Café and the opening of the wetlands walking tracks. These investments saw an increase in visitor numbers to the region and new partnerships with local groups such as the Dookie Seedbank and the Nagambie Farmers Market.

The precinct has now become an integral part of community life. What started on the 13th November 1969 as a humble cellar door has now grown to a must see destination in the Nagambie Lakes region. The Cellar Door and surrounding precinct continues to be a source of pride for the Purbrick family and they are honoured to share the winery with the community for another 50 years.


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