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Eric Stevens Purbrick ~ A Formidable Gentleman...
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Tahbilk has has a long and winding history with past proprietors. From it’s beginnings in 1860 it had many trials and tribulations.  It wasn’t until 1925 when the Purbrick family bought the estate and a particular Purbrick; Eric, who was to set the wheels in motion and take Tahbilk on a journey nobody would have imagined!

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Born on August 3rd 1903 (a similar birthday to that of Tahbilk itself, with the then directors taking possession of the Estate on August 1st 1860), and the first son of Reginald Purbrick who would purchase Tahbilk some 22 years later, Eric completed History and Law degrees at Cambridge University.

Prior to his graduation in 1925, Eric accompanied his father to inspect the family’s new purchase … a rundown vineyard outside Nagambie in Central Victoria, called Chateau Tahbilk. Eric spent some six months at the winery enjoying the squatter gentleman role before returning to England with no inclination then of how his life and Tahbilk would become so entwined, after all Reg’s plan was to subdivide the property into dairy farms.

Eric a formidable gentleman
Eric's Scrap book, A Formidable Gentleman

It would not be until five years later that Eric would return to Tahbilk during which time he had survived a fall into a crevasse whilst skiing in Switzerland – famously being winched to safety casually smoking his pipe!

An exert from the Bristol Evening News 17.06.1928 reads ‘The smell of cigarette smoke from the depths of the crevice also showed that he was stoically facing the prospect of being frozen to death on the little ledge where he lay or disappearing forever into an icy gulf.’

Photograph of a scrapbook courtesy of the Tahbilk Archive.

During his travels in Europe he later reminisced that ‘he noticed his mind turning back to Chateau Tahbilk’. It was also on one of these European sojourns that Eric was inspired by a sign hanging over a weinhaus in Germany, which he then had reproduced with the words ‘Chateau Tahbilk’ and the initials EP cast on to it. (This iconic sign now hangs at Cellar Door.)

EST Tahbilk Sign at Cellar Door
ESP A Formidable Gentleman

At the age of twenty eight, as a young husband and father now with the birth of his son Reginald John Stevens Purbrick (always known as John), Eric returned to Tahbilk and began his venture into the winemaking business. Eric threw himself into the task of revitalising Chateau Tahbilk and began what would be a several year project of ‘cleaning things up’, and learning as much as he could about wine, winemaking, cellaring and marketing.

At the age of twenty eight, as a young husband and father now with the birth of his son Reginald John Stevens Purbrick (always known as John), Eric returned to Tahbilk and began his venture into the winemaking business. Eric threw himself into the task of revitalising Chateau Tahbilk and began what would be a several year project of ‘cleaning things up’, and learning as much as he could about wine, winemaking, cellaring and marketing.

Eric and Reg leaving for WWII

The Second World War then intervened; Eric enlisted in in the 2nd AIF where he served in Australia’s rugged north observing and reporting on signs of enemy activity. The unit was disbanded in early 1945, with Eric then joining the Red Cross and taking on the post as Honorary Assistant Commissioner in Greece for eleven months.

Photograph of Eric Stevens Purbrick with his father Reginald Purbrick 1944. 

On return to Tahbilk, Eric’s energy and work ethic continued to drive change and growth on the Estate. Export markets were growing, acreage under vine continued to expand and (Chateau) Tahbilk began to enjoy greater exposure to the local wine-drinking market.

Relinquishing control to son John in 1974, Eric remained as Chairman until his passing in 1991 and entertained many a visitor at Cellar Door over those intervening years.

E.S.P A Formidable Gentleman
E.S.P A Formidable Gentleman

Eric Purbrick lived and breathed the wine industry for 60 years; he was actively involved with industry bodies and organisations in that time and was at the forefront of varietal labelling in Australia.

James Halliday, noted wine-writer, described him as ‘a formidable gentleman’.

Source: Fay Woodhouse, Vintage Stories, A 150 Year History of Tahbilk, Tahbilk Pty Ltd, Tabilk, 2010.

Perhaps Eric’s most enduring legacy at Tahbilk was to create the ‘Special Bin’ range commencing with a Shiraz from the 1948 vintage.

Selected from the most outstanding casks produced by the Estate from a particular vintage, and only released if deemed worthy, these wines became known as ‘Reserve’ in 1985, and then from 2002 fittingly carry his name and signature – ‘Eric Stevens Purbrick’.

An original 1870s label replication completes these impressive releases

Tahbilk 2016 ‘Eric Stevens Purbrick’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Normally $72.95 Wine Club $64.95

NEW RELEASE 14.0% Alcohol

Enjoy Now to 2035/2040

This 2016 ‘Eric Stevens Purbrick’ release presents aromas of cassis, mulberries, sandalwood and eucalypt alongside subtle cigar and tea-leaf notes that guide you to a richly flavoured palate of exotic spice and dark fruit flavours supported by velvety tannins on a deliciously long finish.
Further complexity will be realised with extended cellaring.

E.S.P Cabernet Sauvignon

Tahbilk 2016 ‘Eric Stevens Purbrick’ Shiraz
Normally $72.95 Wine Club $64.95

NEW RELEASE 14.0% Alcohol

Enjoy Now to 2031/2036

A complex and multi-faceted wine, lending savoury black olive aromas, alongside notes of nutmeg and cloves, to an opulently flavoured palate of blackberry and dark cherry fruits wrapped in a coat of fine, chewy tannins. Careful cellaring will be rewarded with the development of additional character and complexity.

Tahbilk Insides Guide 2020 ©