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Billy Button Wines

Blog and News

Jo Marsh
26 June 2018 | Jo Marsh

Weekend Australian Magazine article by James Halliday

On Saturday 16th June the below article written by James Halliday featured in the Weekend Australian Magazine:

Time Posted: 26/06/2018 at 6:38 PM
Jo Marsh
27 February 2018 | Jo Marsh

How to make your Wine Club selections

How to make your wineclub selections:

Step 1

Login into the website. The login link is at the top of the webpage at

Step 2

Enter your username and password. Your username will be your email address. If you have forgotten your password you can click on the forgotten password link

Step 3

Access your account information by clicking on the Hello ‘yourname’ at the top of the webpage


Step 4

Select ‘Club List’ from the options on the lefthand menu and click ‘edit club’ button

Step 5

Scroll down until you see the current wineclub selections and edit your selection using the drob down button next to each wine. When finished, select the submit button. The wineclub can be edited as many times as you wish until processing day, which you will have been advised of by email


Time Posted: 27/02/2018 at 3:17 PM
Jo Marsh
8 October 2015 | Jo Marsh

Ningxia culture and customs

Ningxia is a provence in north central China, bordering Inner Mongolia. It is basically a desert, with a mountain range on the western flank and the Yellow River running through it. It is small by chinese standards with just 6 million people. The capital is Yinchuan, which has 1.3 million inhabitants. Although the region has a very long history, most of the city is new and there is a huge amount of construction going on. Unlike cities in Australia that have suburbs that sprawl in all directions, Yinchuan is a very compact city surrounded by a ring road, and everyone lives in high rise apartment buildings. Grapes and goji berries are the main industries here, the wine industry is still in its infancy but there is huge investment in wineries here with some very spectacular buildings, ranging from ostentatious Loire inspired Chateaus to traditional chinese design, and everything in between. Despite the fact that the city is in a desert, there are a huge number of trees and gardens here, all on irrigation from the Yellow River. Lining the highway in all directions are closely planted trees - willows and poplars mainly. Throughout the city there are trees lining every road and flowerbeds on the corners of all the major intersections.

The winemaker at my host winery, Liu, speaks English quite well and has been enlightening me about the culture in Ningxia, and greater China. The food here is quite different to what we associate with chinese, as what we have in Australia is mainly southern style chinese. Here in Ningxia the sauces are generally tomato or vinegar based, not much soy sauce. Tomato and potato, which we do not normally associate with chinese cuisine, are quite commen in the dishes here. Mutton is the primary protein, but chicken, beef, donkey and fish are also common. If you order a chicken dish, expect to get the whole chicken chopped up (minus the head), so there is a lot of bone, neck pieces and feet. If you order fish, it will most likely be carp. Carp is quite the delicacy here. My winemaker took me to 'famous tourist area' the Sand Lake, where the famous food served at restaurants is fish head. Carp head. And you get to choose your carp from a tank out the front of the restaurant. Luckily it includes the front part of the fish as well, which was actually quite succulent and not too muddy. I declined the offer to eat the fish brains.

I am staying in a hotel here where there is a buffet breakfast. When it is busy, they have a chef making fresh noodles from dough. It is quite amazing to watch, within 30 seconds he turns a lump of dough into fine noodles, which take about 30 seconds to cook and are then served in a spicy broth. Everything is garlic and chilli here. And lots of it, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Suits me fine.

Meals are early here - lunch is usually 11.30 - 12.00 and dinner is 5.30 - 6.00. Liu suggests to eat rice for lunch and noodles for dinner, because noodles are easier to digest. Meals are accompanied by a glass of hot smoky plum syrup. I've come to enjoy this quite a lot. Many of the vegetable and noodle dishes are served cold and usually seasoned with vinegar. At every table there is a container of chilli and a container of vinegar. Liu always adds the vinegar to the noodles. The chinese also believe that drinking cold beverages, particularly with a hot meal, is unhealthy so it is very hard to get a cold beer! 

Wine is still not very popular here, beer is widely available, but the drink of choice is Baijiu, 'white spirit', which is a (grape) spirit usually around 65% alcohol - it's lethal! The equivalent of 'cheers' here is 'ganbei', except that ganbei involves downing the contents of your glass in one go. They really like ganbei here, whether it's Baijiu and red wine. And there is a ganbei custom here at special dinners, where each person at dinner individually takes a bottle of the alcoholic beverage of choice and then goes around to each other person at the dinner and in turn fills their glass for ganbei. Not so bad if there is only 4 or 5 of you. But when there is 10 or more people, this can be a challenge, particularly if the person charging your glass likes to fill your glass full. When you cling the glasses, you keep your glass lower than the other persons as a sign of respect.

I would not want to drive a car here in a fit, it's chaos! Traffic lights, road signs, lane markings are all just a guide, people do whatever. One day we got stuck in a traffic jam on a country road because there were people selling melons on the side of the road and cars would just stop in the middle of the road to buy them. And then other cars would move into the opposite lane to get past them, and then other cars would then try and get past those cars, so you have 3 cars abreast on a single lane road with oncoming traffic. I've seen at least 6 accidents since I've been here. Car insurance must be through the roof! The city is full of new european cars, but as you travel out towards rural areas, electric motocycles become the transport of choice. Many people have the 3 wheel type with a tray on the back. These are used as road side stalls selling food and drinks and all manner of things. There are also a lot of the truck version of the 3 wheeler, with a noisy engine that sound like a steam engine. These vehicles chug around the rural roads (and the highways too) carrying massive loads of all sorts of things, sometime taking up both lanes of the road with long pieces of bamboo or plywood.

Other things that are a bit different here are that after lunch naps are very common (like Europe), the toilets are nearly all the squat type and never have toilet paper or soap, and the beds are rock hard. In the 'international' hotel I'm staying at, I have a mattress that is a bit like an ironing board, while at the more traditional guest houses the beds are usually woven bamboo with no mattress.

The people here all seem lovely and very eager to please. Because it is such a remote region of China, well off the beaten path, they do not see many foreigners here so we are quite the celebrity. I've gotten quite used to being stared at in restaurants. Quite often people will try out their english on you as you walk past 'hello', 'nice to meet you', or occaisonally 'will you marry me'.

I've enjoyed my time here, met some great people, enjoyed the food, but it is nearly time to leave. And I'm really looking forward to a cold beer that is more than 3.3% alcohol, and a soft bed!

Time Posted: 08/10/2015 at 12:13 AM
Jo Marsh
29 September 2015 | Jo Marsh

Making wine in China!

I am sitting here in my hotel, writing this blog while drinking a nice cold can of beer. Very unusual for China, because I am a woman drinking beer (I have had many people photograph me doing this) and because the beer is cold - the Chinese do not drink cold beverages because they believe it is bad for your health.

I have been at this winery Senmiao Moon Valley for a week now, and I'm starting to feel like part of the family! I picked my Cabernet on Friday and was one of the first to do so. There is a large vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon about 1 1/2 hours south of Yinchuan and each winemaker randomly selected one block from it of at least 3 hectares, so that we can each harvest 15T for the competition. I think I was lucky to select one of the best blocks, it was one of the ripest, the fruit had very good flavour and it was very clean and free from disease.

Lovely small berries and bunches in my Cabernet block

Friday morning myself, the winemaker Liu, and her director Mr Yin drove down to the vineyard ready for picking. I was again lucky, because only 2 winemakers were picking that day, so there were many pickers available for our block. At least 60. Maybe 100. Entire family groups, older people, many women, older children and some very young children. At 7am everything kicked into action.

Start of picking!

I quickly worked out that the families picked in groups, and the crates they picked were stacked together at the end of the rows for counting, as they were paid by the crate (I don't even want to think about what they got paid). I asked if there were a spare pair of snips so I could pick - the people from the winery couldn't understand why I would want to. I found a pair and got to work,the pickers couldn't believe that a 'foreigner' was picking and thought I was very fast. But I was only allowed to pick one row, then I had to 'rest'.

Crates stacked at the end of the rows

Within 3 hours we had nearly finished picking, but then the waiting began. The crew who stacked the cratees on the trucks were not the same crew who picked, so we had to wait for the loading crew. And wait. And wait. About an hour, but then the crates were finally being loaded. We got a ride in the first truck heading back to the winery. I used the time to take a nap, I woke up along the way and quickly decided I was much better off finishing the trip with my eyes closed.

When we got to the winery the processing equipment was setup and ready to go, so we started almost immediately. Every winery has sorting tables, similar to France, so the bunches are sorted first, then the berries are sorted after destemming. My fruit was quite good but it was still good to be able to sort. There were some rogue varieties in the vineyard (not Cabernet), some shrivelled fruit, some underripe fruit and a tiny bit of mould. I later helped another winemaker sort their fruit, which was much more variable and the sorting tables were very useful to ensure only the best fruit ended up in the fermenter.

Bunch sorting

Berry sorting

My winery uses students from the local university studying winemaking to work in the winery, so the sorting was very good. Friday afternoon we finished the first truck - 6.5T but left the next 2 trucks til Saturday. It tooks us most of the day Saturday to finish processing - using the sorting takes about 30 mins per tonne.

The winemakers have a set of instructions for making wine there, so they were quite intrigued by my 'project', which was quite different to theirs. I decided to do a natural ferment on my Cabernet, like I do with my reds in Australia, which is not very common here. It is day 4 now and my ferment has not yet started, every day they ask if I am going to warm it up (it is at 15 deg) and add yeast. I keep telling them we will wait. But I think they will start tomorrow, there is a small amount of activity on the surface.

The race is on now - I have 9 days until I fly back to Australia and I really want to get the wines pressed off and dry before I go. So I really hope the ferment will start tomorrow!

Time Posted: 29/09/2015 at 9:15 PM
Jo Marsh
22 September 2015 | Jo Marsh

Jo goes to China

A friend of mine posted a link on their Facebook page to the Ningxia Winemakers Challenge, so out of curiosity I opened it. 60 winemakers to be selected from around the world to be flown to Ningxia, China, to make wine from the same vineyard of grapes. Competitors could return up to 3 times a year over 2 years to check on their wine, then in 2017 the wines will be judged and money awarded based on the medal they achieved. All flights, accommodation and meals to be covered by the competition. It almost sounded to good to be true, so I thought why not? And here I am now, sitting in my room at my host winery, getting ready to make wine from some Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon.

Organisation of the event was a bit haphazard leading up to it. All we knew was that we had to be in Ningxia by September 20 and stay for a minimum of 15 days. Not much other information. 5 days before I was due to leave I still didn't have my flights. They came through in the end and I arrived in Yinchuan (capital of Ningxia provence) on Saturday 19th at about 5pm, after an unscheduled delay in Beijing after missing the connection. A casual dinner in the hotel that night and a chance to meet the other participants, although there were still about 10 winemakers yet to arrive.

On Sunday morning we visited Chateau Changyu-Moser, a Loire styled chateau on the outskirts of Yinchuan. They had quite the visitor experience with a lot of history about winemaking in the region. Except no wine tasting!

Chateau Changyu Moser

After lunch was quite a strange affair. We went to the big agricultural expo building for the ballot to see who got which winery and which part of the vineyard. We were all chatting and laughing when we walked into the building, to find a big room with about 4 rows of chairs in a big U in front of a stage. There were a number of people sitting in the chairs with one row empty (apparently for us) and a large number of photographers and camera crews standing around the stage and the chairs. We took our seats and then listened to a very long speech in Chinese. Finally it was time for the ballot. There were 48 winemakers (12 pulled out) and 48 wineries. The representative of the first winery went up on stage and a computer program started cycling rapidly through the names of the winemakers, then the representative called 'Tíngzhǐ' (stop) and the name of their winemaker was displayed. I was selected quite early in the process and was warmly greeted by a man in a business shirt and slacks. I had no idea what the name of the winery was, but when I was guided to take the seat next to him at the inner row of chairs, he gave me his business card. Senmiao Blue Valley Vineyards. I had a name but nothing else. The process continued until every winery and winemaker were paired up. Then the same process for vineyard selection, although it was the winemaker that got to call 'Tíngzhǐ' or 'Stop'. I was allocated block 39, again this didn't really mean anything to me. We were told the vineyard was Cabernet Sauvignon, at least 10 years old and at least 3 hectares each, with a maximum crop of about 5.5T/ha.

Once the formalities were over we had a chance for a quick chat with our host wineries before heading back to the hotel. The winemaker at my host winery was a young female and I was told the winery was only 5 years old and that they had a hotel at the winery where I would stay.Then back to the hotel in Yinchuan and down the street for some traditional hotpot.

 Monday morning we were up early and on the bus for the 1 1/2 hour trip to the vineyard. We were met by our host winery and taken to our individual block. The trellising was almost non-existent, the soil quite sandy but didn't look too vigorous so I was hopeful. At this point in the competition we were all worried that the Cabernet wouldn't be ripe until when we were due to fly home because we had heard they were still harvesting chardonnay in many parts of the region. One taste of the grapes put that worry to rest. The fruit was quite sweet, the seeds were brown and crunchy and the flavour was remarkably good. I walked up and down the rows and was quite impressed by what I saw and tasted. I think I can make some decent wine from this fruit. The manager of the vineyard was with us and he told us it was the best block on the vineyard. But then maybe he told everyone that... A quick baume check revealed the sugar content to be about 13.5 baume - which meant it was nearly ready to pick. Acid was a bit low but that is easily fixed!

Block 39 Cabernet Sauvignon

Today I was picked up by my host winery and I finally found out what my winery was like and where it was located. I think I struck it lucky. The winery is set in a complex of business that include the winery, cellardoor, vineyard, a hotel, restaurant and bar and botanic gardens, among other things. The winery is quite impressive to look at, not quite as ostentatious as some of the others we saw, but grand none-the-less. And it actually houses the winery! Many of the others are just show pieces for the visitor experience and the cellar is somewhere else. The accommodation is great and the botanic gardens are just stunning, it'll be so great to getup and walk through them every morning. We had a quick meeting this afternoon to discuss winemaking and have planned to pick the vineyard this Saturday and Sunday.

Stay tuned for further updates - I hope to add a blog every few days

The Senmiao winery

The onsite hotel

The entrance to the botanic gardens

Time Posted: 22/09/2015 at 10:46 PM
Jo Marsh
2 July 2015 | Jo Marsh

2015 - the whirlwind vintage!

Vintage may have finished a couple of months ago, but by the time I managed to get all the wines put to bed (20 varieties this year!!) it was time to start preparing the first 2015 whites and the last 2014 reds for bottling. Now those wines are safely in bottle I finally have time to put pen to paper (or keys to keyboard actually...) to summarise the vintage.

Last year, I headed into vintage planning to make 6 varieties, and ended up making 10. This year, I approached vintage planning 16 varieties and have finished up with 20! All from the Alpine Valleys, except the Riesling, and all considered 'alternative' except Riesling, Chardonnay and Shiraz.

This year I decided to add a Prosecco to the range because of my long history (at Seppelt) and love of making sparkling wines. But this won't be your run of the mill Prosecco I have all the equipment to make it traditionally, so it will be bottle fermented, lees aged, hand riddled on riddling racks and hand disgorged! I'm hoping to create a Prosecco with character and complexity.

New additions in the whites are Malvasia, Pinot Blanc, Arneis, Fiano and Moscato Giallo. Malvasia (Istriana) originates from Friuli, Italy, so will be a great addition to the range alongside my Friulano and Verduzzo, also from Friuli. I was very excited to be able to pick up Pinot Blanc this year, it's one of the varieties I've always been keen on with its combination of elegance, finesse, minerality with intensity and complexity. Arneis hails from Piedmont in Northern Italy, the Australian examples I have seen vary greatly in style so I was quite intrigued to see how it would behave. I'm pleasantly surprised at its ability to combine fragrance and intensity in a tight, punchy package. I managed to score a very small parcel of Fiano, the first in the Alpine Valleys and I'm very excited - based on what I saw this year it has a great future ahead of it up here. And lastly, I decided to take on an experimental batch of Moscato Giallo. It is a fantastic Italian muscat variety bursting with flavour. Usually it is made into a Moscato style, however I have attempted to make a different style with it, quite dry and adding in some complexity to the vibrant fruit intensity As I said, quite experimental and I'm still not sure if I'll put it in bottle this year as I only have 200L!

The new red varieties I picked up are all very exciting - Nebbiolo, Saperavi, Refosco and Schioppettino. Nebbiolo really needs no introduction, I've made it a few times in the past and I'm just having fun with it. Saperavi is a Georgian variety known for its intense colour, it is one of the few wine grape varieties with red coloured flesh It makes a very unique wine, combining perfumed floral and musk notes with dried herb characters. Refosco and Schioppettino both orginate from Friuli in North East Italy and are very rare in Australia The Refosco I have found to be a lighter style of red with lovely fragrance and a delicate palate. Schioppettino I am very excited about (it seems I am quite easily excited re-reading this post...). Fantastic natural acidity, aromas of black pepper, berry fruits and floral notes with a firmly structured palate and great length. It is a very late ripening variety so could be a challenge in cool years, but will be worth it based on what I've seen so far.

The summer of 2015 was very one of the coolest in the Alpine Valleys for many years, with daytime maximum temperatures ranging from the mid 20s to low 30s without a day over 40 degrees. This cooler weather was perfect for retaining natural acidity and bright flavours, but with such near perfect ripening conditions the vines never stopped photosynthesizing and accumulating sugars leading to the earliest start to vintage on record. It all most seems counter-intuitive that vines would ripen faster in cooler conditions than during that hotter summers, but during times of excessive heat, the vines shut down to prevent water loss, and hence cannot continue to produce sugars. Any rapid increases in sugar observed under these conditions is usually a result of dehydration and concentration of sugars rather than physiological ripening.

The white varieties were very compressed and nearly all picked by the first week of March, making for a very busy few weeks! The varieties came in thick and fast – Gerwürztraminer was the first variety in for Billy Button with the best natural acid I have ever seen in the variety, closely followed by Chardonnay and more Chardonnay. Then Prosecco, Pinot Blanc, Arneis and more Chardonnay. Next the first red – Tempranillo came in then more Chardonnay followed by Friulano, Fiano, Verduzzo, Vermentino and Malvasia Istriana. At that point the reds cranked up with more Tempranillo, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Barbera and Saperavi. Riesling from Whitlands and a trial parcel of Moscato Giallo finished off the whites. Then vintage was brought to a close with the late ripening Italian reds Nebbiolo, Refosco and Schioppettino. All in by the end of March! 

Despite such an early and rapid vintage, quality is exceptional. Certainly the best vintage I have seen in the Alpine Valleys (in the 4 years I’ve been here…) but also the best vintage the growers have ever seen in the 20+ years they've been growing fruit in the region.  I find it quite difficult to choose the highlights of the vintage because it was so strong across the board, but certainly the traditional varieties Chardonnay and Shiraz are extremely strong.

Time Posted: 02/07/2015 at 1:55 PM
Jo Marsh
14 May 2015 | Jo Marsh

Another one bites the dust!

It appears that word is slowly getting out there about Billy Button. The Barbera released at Easter sold out in less than 4 weeks and now the last case of Verduzzo has just been snapped up as well. The Verduzzo took a little longer to shine than the Friulano and Vermentino which had so much immediate appeal, but the Verduzzo has developed beautifully and been extremely popular with restaurants in the last few months. Due to this delayed development I have decided to mature the 2015 Verduzzo for longer in the winery and allow it to reach its full potential before release. It will be released in either November or April, depending on how it matures this year, so you may be in for a long wait! But don't worry, I'll be releasing the 2015 Riesling, Gerwurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Arneis and Vermentino at the start of August, along with the 2014 Shiraz and Tempranillo so hopefully everyone can find something to suit their taste!

Time Posted: 14/05/2015 at 2:21 PM
Jo Marsh
10 January 2015 | Jo Marsh

2014 Vermentino scores 93 points from James Halliday

In the current February/March edition of Wine Companion Magazine, James Halliday has rated our 2014 Vermentino 93 points.

"Hand-picked and whole bunch-pressed (with some unintentional skin contact when power was lost for several hours with the press full of grapes). The strongest feature of the wine is its quite remarkable texture, stemming from 3 months on lees without any sulphur, but some stirring. A worthy wine. From the Ferraro Vineyard in Myrtleford, 70 dozen made. 13% alc. Drink to 2017"

Not a bad start, I'm looking forward to what he thinks of the other wines I submitted!

Time Posted: 10/01/2015 at 3:52 PM
Jo Marsh
25 October 2014 | Jo Marsh

The Versatile Vermentino Wine of the Week

Tasmanian wine writer Winsor Dobbin has rated the 2014 'The Versatile' Vermentino 94/100 and made it his Wine of the Week. Read his review here:

Billy Button is the brand new label from talented former Boyntons Feathertop winemaker Jo Marsh, who is based in Victoria's chilly Alpine Valleys - with a cellar door in Bright. Her first releases have a definite Italian accent; vermentino, verduzzo and friulano, alongside a cracking riesling made using fruit sourced from the nearby King Valley. All rated 90+ with the vermentino and riesling my favourites, each scoring 94/100. This take on a Sardinian white grape variety that's taking Australia by storm is both lively and textural; dry and extremely food friendly. Well worth seeking out. By the way, Billy Buttons are the native daisies that you find on the mountain ranges over summer. $25.

Time Posted: 25/10/2014 at 1:05 PM
Jo Marsh
13 September 2014 | Jo Marsh

Campbell Mattinson reviews on Winefront

Posted on his website yesterday, Campbell Mattinson gave the following ratings:

94 points - 2014 Billy Button "The Torment" Riesling

94 points - 2014 Billy Button "The Feisty" Friulano

93 points - 2014 Billy Button "The Happy" Gerwurztraminer

92 points - 2014 Billy Button "The Versatile" Vermentino

92 points - 2014 Billy Button "The Delinquent" Verduzzo


Read the full reviews below:

2014 Billy Button "The Torment" Riesling

Posted September 14 by Campbell Mattinson

“From the moment I decided to create my own brand,” Jo Marsh says, “I was adamant that it would be Alpine Valleys only. I wanted to bring some recognition and awareness to this region that I had grown to love, and now call home. Riesling has always been my favourite variety, both to make and to drink, but unfortunately there is very little riesling planted in the Alpine Valleys. ”

Then she heard of the Croucher vineyard at the high altitude Whitlands in the King Valley. “Up and up and up we went, then when we got to the very top, there it was. 780 metres elevation, next door to the old Brown Brothers Whitlands vineyard. Planted in 1990. It was pristine. Close-planted rows with a perfectly balanced canopy. ” Naturally, the temptation proved irresistible. “I couldn’t pass this up. Hence ‘The Torment’ was born; a King Valley wine in my Alpine Valleys brand.”

It’s a sizzling wine. Tight. Intense. Apple, talc, lime, bath salts. Sears through the palate but has the slightest whisper of apple blossom sweetness. High acid but carries it beautifully. Will be long lived. Beautiful.

Rated : 94 Points
Alcohol : 12%
Price : $25
Closure : Screwcap
Drink : 2014 - 2024+


2014 Billy Button "The Feisty" Friulano

Posted September 12 by Campbell Mattinson

Every time winemaker Jo Marsh makes a move she goes smaller, but better. More interesting. Seppelt at Great Western, Feathertop wines and now her own micro label, Billy Button. She hasn’t used these words herself but I will: she’s going to redefine the way the wines of the Alpine Valleys in north-east Victoria are considered. A few dozen cases here, a few dozen there. In Billy Button world, 70 cases is a lot. Interesting stuff, different. Quality. Precise. She entered this Friulano in the Small Vignerons Show, from her first season out on her own, and the first egg a bird: a Gold medal.

“It (Billy Button) may not be the best financial model,” she says, “but I’m only making wines that interest me, or that have a story that means something to me.” She planned on making six wines in her first season but ended up making ten. With the freedom to do her own thing, she kept unearthing tiny treasures. Some of these wines have a make of only 25 dozen.

This friulano was grown on the Dalbosco vineyard at Porepunkah. “Alpine Valleys has four growers of friulano; it’s the hotbed of the variety,” she quips. The winemaking notes: “Hand picked and whole bunch pressed. 15% skin contacted for 24 hours. Natural ferment on full solids in old oak 70% puncheon 30% barrique. Aged on lees for 3 months, partial malolactic fermentation.” A lot of work for a tiny make.

It’s such a different wine. Friulano grows big, tight bunches of grapes and if you don’t watch it in the vineyard, the acidity drops back alarmingly. This release shows estery banana, spice, melon, but then turns all steely, crackly, chalky through the finish. It’s fresh and racy but really gives up the flavour. Defined by its dry texture in the end. Classy.

Rated : 94 Points
Alcohol : 12%
Price : $25
Closure : Screwcap
Drink : 2014 - 2016


2014 Billy Button "The Happy" Gerwurztraminer

Posted September 12 by Campbell Mattinson

Jo Marsh tells it better than I can. Good story: “I’ve always liked gewürztraminer but my interest in the variety really piqued after I discovered a bottle of 1978 Drumborg Traminer in the old cellars at Seppelt. After tasting this wine I was on a mission. I spoke to the Drumborg vineyard manager, Larry Saddler about the wine and expressed my sentiment that I thought gewürztraminer would be a great variety for Drumborg. At which point he told me that the old traminer vines were never pulled out, they were just slashed and were still growing in the bush above the dam. We decided to resurrect the vines to enable us to make some trial wine which we we could then use to persuade the powers that be to let us plant traminer again. We had two vintages from that resurrected block, the first about 20kg from which we made one dozen bottles, the second closer to 100kg. The great news was that we succeeded in getting approval to plant a hectare of gewurz at Drumborg, but unfortunately soon after this I made the decision to leave Seppelt so would never see the fruits of my labour. After arriving in the Alpine Valleys I became aware of a grower at Happy Valley (one of the Alpine Valleys) that had some Gewürztraminer so as soon as I decided to start my own brand, he was one of the first people I called. The vines were planted in the 1980s …”

A tiny yield was foot-stomped and given six hours on skins before whole bunch pressing. The juice was separated into two batches, the first going to stainless steel and the other half racked with fluffy solids to an old French barrique. Half the wine went back to the grower, the other half is this Billy Button wine. 25 dozen make.

It’s such a textural, aromatic wine. It’s quite beautiful. I tasted it on a Friday and then again the Tuesday after and it was still just humming along like a champion. Not oily. Has a dry richness to it, though as with all Jo Marsh’s wines it thrills with acidity. Hard not to drink it. Tight but generous. Gewurz can be a hard sell but with such a tiny make, and such quality, this should fly. So textural and tasty.

Rated : 93 Points
Alcohol : 13%
Price : $25
Closure : Screwcap
Drink : 2014 - 2017+


2014 Billy Button "The Versatile" Vermentino

Posted September 12 by Campbell Mattinson

A vermentino wasn’t in the original plans for Billy Button “but I hate the idea of good grapes being left on vines”. She visited the small plot of grapes near the town of Myrtleford and found “the flavour was just so intense that I had to give it a go.”

“It’s just such a great, accessible variety and I think a really good alternative to sauv blanc or pinot g.” In winemaking terms, “I’ve learned that to get the characteristic texture seen in good Italian examples of the variety, the fruit needs to be picked a little riper. And by riper, I mean into the 12s. I think in a cooler climate if you pick it in the 11s you miss the texture.” The wine got some “unintentional skin contact when the power went out for a few hours during pressing, however I think this turned out positive.” The juice was fermented naturally on full solids in stainless steel. It was left for three months on lees unsulphured, stirring occasionally. 70 dozen.

Crunchy wine. Dry. Slatey. But has apple-like fruit lifting up through the centre. Distinctive. Briney edge to the burst of stonefruits. Super. All the Billy Button whites are faultless, lively, have good mid-palate impact and yet finish with a full sense of their integrity being intact.

Rated : 92 Points
Alcohol : 13%
Price : $25
Closure : Screwcap
Drink : 2014 - 2015


2014 Billy Button "The Delinquent" Verduzzo

Posted September 12 by Campbell Mattinson

“Interesting variety to make. I knew nothing about it. I read an article by Joel Pizzini and that was all I really knew about it. Phenolic. Had a really blank page when I came to make it. I’ve never seen a wine change so much; it’s different every time I look at it. I feel like I’m an Australian expert on verduzzo now, having made all of one.”

And saving one of the best quotes for last – “I saw [verduzzo] as a great challenge, and I love a challenge. Particularly when someone said to me, ‘Why would you want to do verduzzo? It’s such a boring variety.’ After that, it was game on!”

The grapes were handpicked, then whole bunched pressed. “Just the free run was pressed out and the remainder was left in the press overnight for skin contact and then pressed out the next day. Perhaps an odd thing to do with a phenolic variety, but I had a feeling the flavour was in the skins too. The free run was pressed to a Flexcube and inoculated and fermented cool. The pressings were pressed to used French barrique and fermented natural on full solids, warm. ” At first the free run was “lovely, lifted tropical fruit, clean and vibrant. But then about halfway through it went a bit ugly, a bit dirty, quite savoury and the phenolics started to pop out. Meanwhile the barrel had gone quite funky but had great texture. So at the end of ferment I combined the two and left them on lees, unsulphured, stirring occasionally. It really did go through an ugly duckling stage, the aromas remained dull and a bit dirty, but the palate was really building with time and I just hoped that when it came time to stabilise it that the nose would clean up. And it did – like magic. I have never made a wine like it.”

It is different. It has an earthen, savoury, spicy aspect. Almost has a grainy texture. “Not like a white wine at all really. Savoury and structural,” Jo says. Core has just enough fruit, before the more unusual aspects take over. Savouriness is quite incredible here. Will work beautifully on the dining table.  It will sell itself on its difference, but it’s better than that.

Rated : 92 Points
Alcohol : 13.5%
Price : $25
Closure : Screwcap
Drink : 2014 - 2015

Time Posted: 13/09/2014 at 7:06 PM