Town known to all Australians as the name of
a popular sparkling wine.
Great Western is the birthplace of viniculture
in a district that is noted for its wineries.
This small and charming town is situated on the
Western Highway between Ararat and Stawell, 220
km north-west of Melbourne.
It was here that two Frenchmen, who met each
other at the Daylesford diggings, set up
vineyards in 1863 as the soil and climate
reminded them of their native land. They were
soon producing wines that won awards at
Inspired by their example, Joseph Best began
setting up his own vineyard in 1865 with
cuttings from the Trouettes. His brother Henry
did likewise just north of town. Both of these
wineries are still operational. In fact the
descendant of Joseph's modest patch is now the
enormous Seppelt's which is the town's major
employer and one of the country's major
producers of sparkling wine.
Joseph died in 1887 and the new owner and the
property was purchased by Hans Irvine who
dedicated himself to producing a champagne of
comparable quality to the French item. He
journeyed to France to study the process and
brought back French employees, enjoying great
success in subsequent years. Thus Mark Twain
observes in Following the Equator (1895): 'The
Stawell region...has great vineyards and
produces exceptionally fine wines. One of these
vineyards - the Great Western, owned by Mr.
Irving [sic] - is regarded as a model'. Irvine
sold out to Seppelts in 1918.
The Great Western Champagne Picnic Races are
held on the Australia Day long weekend and the
inaugural Great Western Bushriders' Challenge
was held in November 1998.
Things to see:
The nearest information centre is at Ararat,
tel: 1800 657 158.
Garden Gully Winery
Just south of Great Western, along the Western
Highway, is Garden Gully which was established
in 1985. It produces a sparkling pinot,
grenache, riesling, shiraz and sparkling
burgundy and it is open from 10.30 a.m. to 5.00
p.m. on weekdays and from 10.00 a.m. to 5.30
p.m. on weekends. There are barbecue and picnic
facilities, tel: (03) 5356 2400.
Great Western Winery
Just off the Western Highway, along the Moyston
Rd (which heads west out of town), is the Great
Western Vineyard. It was established in 1865 by
Joseph Best with cuttings from the Trouettes. He
employed goldminers to construct the
barrel-vaulted cellars which were cut from
decomposed granite. Best died in 1887 and the
new owner, Hans Irvine, dedicated himself to
producing a champagne of comparable quality to
the French item. He extended the cellars
further, as did the next owners, Seppelt's, who
bought the property in 1918.
The small white mud-brick building adjacent
the sales shop is known as 'Shaft House' (1860s)
as it was originally the only entrance, via a
six-metre shaft, to the subterranean cellars
which extend for 3 km and contain up to two
million bottles of maturing sparkling wine. They
are classified by the National Trust.
Today it is an enormous complex and the
town's major employer with 150 permanent
employees and up to 150 casuals, varying
seasonally. Opening hours are from 10.00 a.m. to
5.00 p.m. daily with guided tours at 10.30 a.m.,
1.30 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. Monday to Saturday. The
tours are only held on Sundays in the Victorian
school holidays and on holiday long
weekends,tel: (03) 5361 2222.
Best's Wines (Concongella)
The rustic charm of Best's Wines is located on
the banks of Concongella Creek. The property was
taken up in 1866 by Henry Best, the brother of
Joseph. He planted the first vines here in 1868.
The property was sold to established winemakers,
the Thomsons, in 1920. To get there head north
of Great Western for 2 km then take the
signposted turnoff on the right. Opening hours
are from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. on weekdays and
from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Saturdays and
public holidays. During school holidays they are
open on Sundays from 12.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m.
They produce a large range of table wines
(including a methode champenoise) and
fortifieds. A self-guided cellar walk brochure