Blog and News
Wow what a great event to catch up with interested wine consumers! Jo was nominated as one of the 12 Young Guns of Wine for 2016. Check out http://younggunsofwine.com/about-us to see what the fuss is about. The Melbourne public tasting was on 30th June at Prince Wine Store - Jo and I poured the wines she’d submitted: the 2015 The Affable Barbera and the 2015 The Alluring Tempranillo. These grape varieties originating from Italy and Spain respectively garnered loads of interest and we enjoyed pouring and sharing them with keen customers. We were proud to see such a strong Victorian representation in the competitors and winners. These awards look for innovation, intensity, regional authenticity and a point of difference.
Tick tick tick tick for Billy Button wines. The varietal interest and the approachability of the wines were paramount in the comments we received. Folks were interested to know the history of the varietals, and also the intriguing history of the North East and particularly the Alpine Valleys as a region where Italian (and other) prisoners of war were held during WW2. The immigrants willingly replaced the labour of those men gone to war and they brought their love of wine, coffee, home grown produce and familial hospitality to the region. And they stayed.
The region embraced them and is now blessed with wonderful alternative grape varieties grown by passionate local producers.
Jo works closely with the growers to maximise fruit quality and takes pride in producing wines of outstanding quality reflecting the grape itself and the benefits of the climate. And she doesn’t stop at those more familiar ... check out the website for the new releases of Refosco and Schippotino (although both are sold out now) and don’t lose the chance to check out Fiano and Fruilano. So much goodness. Gutsy wines begging for good food and good friends.
Go for the unknown and let us know when you’ve tried them. We look forward to your feedback!
We are very excited to have released seven new wines last week for your drinking pleasure! Five 2015 whites and four 2014 reds, the last of the reds to be released from last year's vintage. Some classics and some new and intriguing styles to try.
The 2015 is the second release for the Riesling, the Gewurztraminer and the Vermentino. All have been favourites in the range and the new releases from this vintage are at least as delicious. The Gewurztraminer was the first wine to sell out last year as we only receive a small parcel of fruit and we've only made 33 dozen! We suspect it will sell out quickly so get in to cellar door or online and try some before it disappears.
New to the range of white wines are the 2015 Arneis and Pinot Blanc. Again fruit sourced from our growers in the Alpine Valleys and both varieties grown is small quantities in Australia so they're not wines that everyone has tried .... we think you'll enjoy these examples and we'd love to see you at cellar door to pour them and discuss them with you.
In the reds we have released the 2014 Tempanillo and Shiraz. Both needed more time in barrel to mature and develop than our previous two releases, and the wait has been worth it. Showing that cool climate combination of intense varietal fruit character and elegant structure.
All the new releases are currently available for tasting and purchase at Cellar Door and by the glass, bottle or to take away when you visit Birbante Pizzeria, who take over from Cellar Door att 5.30 of an evening.
They are also available online - check out the online store for details.
Or perhaps the easiest way to try them is to join the newly minted Billy Button Wine Club! Click on the Wine Club tab at the top of the page and find out full details. In summary the many benefits include three deliveries a year of winemaker Jo Marsh's selections of new releases, discounts on prices, free shipping to some states, and exclusive previews and access to rarer wines.
And if you join before August the 7th you will receive a bonus bottle of the sought after, sold out, 2014 Friulano!
Its not uncommon for folks to listen to stories of the crazy time that is vintage then ask: "So what do you do for the rest of the time?"
Well. Lets start with the massive clean up of the winery, trying to make room for the next steps. Important equipment that is used only during vintage such as the press and the crusher get thoroughly cleaned and sanitised then mothballed until next year.
Alongside this is loads of analysis, keeping track of the new whites to ensure that they have finished ferment and are settling then are sulfured as needed to keep them sound. And keeping track of the reds for the same reasons but also they need to go through MLF: malolactic fermentation which is actually a bacterial conversion to clear the wine of malic acid, softening it and making it unlikely to spoil. Given that we have dozens of barrels and many batches in tanks this is a full time job in itself!
Then the 2014 barrels need to be retrieved from the back corner to which they were relegated during vintage. They each get checked for soundness, topped with some wine to keep them full, and analysed and sulfured as necessary. Then the blends begin. Those reds and whites to go to the next bottling get sampled and a "bench blend" is made, to find the best combination of the batches if there are a few, and finalise the style of the wine. The wine is then all pumped out of barrels in to tanks, where it is stabilised and settled and final chemistry is checked.
The whites that are going to bottle soon are "racked": the solids of grapes and ferment have settled to the bottom and the clean wine is pumped gently from above them. The wine is then stabilised and again final chemistry checked and any adjustments made.
Meanwhile Jo gets busy finalising label design for the new wines, ordering bottles, screw caps, cartons, dividers and everything else needed for bottling. Next week the portable cross flow filtration expert arrives with his machine and each wine to be bottled gets a final polish to be clear and fresh.
And of course we are also running cellar door four days a week, managing orders, deliveries, trade visits, press samples and whatever else is needed!
We'll let you know how we go with bottling - exciting times!
Can it possibly be only four weeks since we released the 2014 Billy Button Chardonnay, Barbera and Sangiovese?
Well yes, Alex, it's May Day so it's been four weeks since opening cellar door and releasing the new 2014 wines. OK, so already we have had such fantastic reviews from Wine Front. And local, Melbourne and interstate restaurants and wine bars have been ordering up big time. Sales through the cellar door and Birbante pizzeria are flourishing. So now we are down to only two dozen of The Affable Barbera, available through cellar door and Birbante only (luckily we loved it so much we've made double the volume this vintage). It's a fantastic affirmation of Jo's mission to bring beautiful, high quality and less common varietals to the table.
Very satisfying to be pouring our first reds. We are proud of them and as the first quarter of this year has gone by so quickly we are soon looking to complete the barrel blends of the 2014 Tempranillo and Shiraz. Two completely different wines. Both exciting. Both being bottled in June; so look for another new release in August/September.
The Autumn season in Bright is known nationwide as a spectacle of gorgeous trees turning all shades of the rainbow, and the vines do as well. As the weather cools and harvest is complete, the grapevines begin to retreat. They harvest all the nutriton left in the vine leaves and store it for next season - hence the loss of green and change to other colours. Very pretty that!
This coming weekend is the annual Bright Festival and already preparations are underway and the weather forecast is ...... superb! Local streets will be temporarily closed as the floats made by local schools and community groups go by. Street markets will be bustling. Music, food and wine will be abundant. And Billy Button Cellar Door will open early at 11am for all your bacchanalian needs. See you soon!
Phew! So at last we begin to see the end of Vintage 2015! Winemakers have varied ways of marking the end of a vintage - for some its the last receival of fruit, for others its the pressing off of the last red or the barrelling down of same. For Jo its the last fruit intake coupled with the departure of her wonderful mama Maria.
Maria has been plunging, doing the baume round, moving barrels in and out of the cool room, pressure washing tanks and bins and whatever else is required! She is amazing and we are lucky to have her loving support.
So last Monday Jo showed both Maria and myself (Alex) some end of vintage love by taking us out to a degustation dinner at the iconic Simone's of Bright. What a special night. I will attach a copy of the menu for your perusal. Gorgeous local produce matched with fabulous wines. We are proud that Simone's carries some Billy Button wines and shows them off so well but we also love to try their international finds! Tim the Sommelier brought us beautiful examples of some Italian wines to drink with the food, and inspired us to get going after vintage expanding our drinking repertoire!
A degustation meal is one where you do not order, you simply put yourself in the hands of the chef and the wine waiter and sit back and enjoy. Simone's menu was sublime. Alex is allergic to seafood (yeah I know .... boo hoo) so she had modified courses - no problem. Delicious Alpine Valley rabbit, goat, eggs, zucchini flowers, duck, apples, pears, honey, nettles ............... mmmmmm.
Well how quickly has the month of March gone by? Here at Billy Button we've continued to take in fabulous fruit and watched as the vineyards begin to turn to the russets, ochres and purples of the autumnal relaxation of the vines. As the weather cools they feel the temperature of the air and the soil and begin to retreat for winter. Harvesting nutrition from the leaves and storing the goodness for next spring's new crop. It's a cycle we love to watch. The Bright area is well known for its autumnal colours and it is indeed a beautiful time in the region.
The quality of fruit this vintage is just superb across the board. Reds and whites have enjoyed benign ripening conditions and we've been able to work closely with the growers to pick the grapes at the optimum time for flavour and balance. This has been borne out in the winery where we've only made minimal additions and almost without exception the wines have gone through natural ferment smoothly.
Exciting new additions to the Billy Button range are Prosecco (sparkling of course!), Arneis, Fiano, Moscato Giallo, Malvasia & Pinot Blanc (whites), Nebbiolo, Saperavi, Schioppettino and Refosco (reds). More details on these later! Jo's mission to bring us alternative varieties grown in the pristine cool climate of the Alpine Valleys means we get to meet and harvest from some wonderfully passionate growers who've kept the faith with their small parcels of unique vines. What a privilege it is to work with them and bring their fruit through the winemaking process.
The Billy Button Cellar Door has been rated as the star Cellar Door of the Alpine Valleys by Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine in their current edition. Three wines were also featured in the Top 100 new releases tasting, all scoring 91+ points. Our 2014 The Torment Riesling was listed as the star wine of the Cellar Door in the article and we encourage you to come by and try it again - its evolving beautifully as we hoped it would.
This coming Easter weekend we re-open cellar door and release our next wines, open 12 - 5.30 every day over the Easter weekend, then Thursday to Sunday every week from now on. We are so excited to be releasing our 2014 Chardonnay, Barbera and Sangiovese. Gorgeous wines we will love to share with you and with the faithful patrons of Birbante Pizzeria where they will be available with your meal or to take away. Meanwhile ..... back to plunging the red wine ferments!
Sorry not to have been in contact for a while but February has come and gone and we've already taken three quarters of the expected vintage intake! 2015 has been quite an early vintage by two to three weeks across Victoria and crops are bountiful which means we end up processing more fruit than estimated but how can one leave it on the vine when the quality is so excellent? First to come in were Chardonnay and Gerwurztraminer and more Chardonnay then some more Chardonnay ....! Already the cool room was stacked with bins of fruit and the barrel ferments were squeezed in to the edges where possible. Lots of what we call MSA: Moving Stuff Around. A good workout believe me.
Since then we have also received and processed Prosecco, Pinot Blanc, Arneis, Tempranillo, more Chardonnay, Friulano, Fiano, Verduzzo, Vermentino, Malvasia Istriana, Shiraz and Sangiovese ..... lots of MSA required but that's the excitement of small batch winemaking. Parcels of beautiful, intriguing varieties grown with love and care given individual attention and allowed to ferment naturally and express their personalities.
More out there on the vine including some rarer varietals that we have exclusive access to and look forwarding to sharing with you later. And of course the fabulous Croucher vineyard Riesling - the only white left to pick! Meanwhile.....back to the winery where that glorious autumnal odour of ferment awaits.
Great achievement for us yesterday bottling our next three wines - the 2014 Billy Button Chardonnay, Barbera and Sangiovese. These are all terrific wines that we will be very proud to release at Easter time when the vintage craziness settles. Jo is especially proud of the Chardonnay. Over the years she has become known as a maker of benchmark cool climate styles of this perennial favourite. Her trademarks are elegance, balance and varietal flavour and the 2014 Billy Button is no exception. She has called it The Classic because it is.
The Barbera has been christened The Affable because its so likeable and drinkable and food friendly. Its origin is the Piedemont region of Italy and it's the third most planted grape over there. A gorgeous red wine that wants to join you for lunch, for a lazy afternoon grazing on antipasto with friends, or a pizza and movie night.
Mmmmmm. Easter will be the perfect time for The Rustic Sangiovese. This classic Italian varietal is best known as the backbone of the iconic Chianti region. No, not those funny shaped bottles with the rafia baskets underneath, but the juicy, savoury and spicy wine that goes so well with soul food and great company,
The last few days we have been buzzing between vineyards taking maturity samples and checking them for flavour and sugar ripeness. Acid analysis follows so that we get an overall picture of the grape ripening process and in discussion with the growers we plan when to pick. Suffice to say this will be an earlyish harvest with plenty of flavour and natural acid - the perfect cool climate vintage!
We love the Versatile Vermentino and apparently so do other folks! Its been a favourite at cellar door and in the Birbante Pizzeria which takes over the cellar door facility at 5.30 of an evening. Internet sales have been steady and last week we were down to less than four cases. Then the good people from the iconic Simone's of Bright Restaurant came by to try it, fell in love and took the rest. So you'll have to head to Simone's to try it! http://www.simonesbright.com.au.
It is also available in Melbourne at The Valley Cellar Door http://www.valleycellardoor.com.au.
Earlier in the year we sold out of the Gewurtztraminer and the Friulano - what a great response to these beautiful varietals!
Fear not - the 2015 Vermentino grapes are ripening happily on the vine. The Versatile goes on.
It was very exciting to see that wine writer Ralph Kyte-Powell had named The Torment as the Wine the week in last week's issues of The Age Epicure and The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Section and scored it 93 points. He is a great supporter of emerging regions and was a judge at the 2014 North East Victorian Wine Show. We've been contacted by several people who read the review and wanted to get their hands on some!
Jo named the wine "The Torment" because she had vowed that Billy Button Wines were to be sourced from Alpine Valleys fruit only. End of. But then came the conundrum - Riesling is Jo's absolute favourite but there was none available in vintage 2014. Then she was advised of a pristine parcel of Riesling growing at the Croucher Vineyard in Whitlands in the King Valley. One visit and the deal was done. No other variety could have caused her to break the Alpine Valleys rule. What a good idea it turned out to be.