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Billy Button Wines

Blog and News

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
Jo Marsh
9 September 2014 | Jo Marsh

Billy Button Strikes Gold at the Small Vignerons Awards

The Small Vignerons Awards are conducted in Canberra every August by Winewise magazine. The awards are restricted to producers who crush less than 250 tonnes and they usually receive over 1000 entries.

This was the first wineshow Billy Button wines were entered in, and we were awarded 4 medals from 4 entries

Gold - 2014 Billy Button "The Feisty" Friulano

Silver - 2014 Billy Button "The Torment" Riesling

Bronze - 2014 Billy Button "The Happy" Gerwurtztraminer

Bronze - 2014 Billy Button "The Versatile" Vermentino

Time Posted: 09/09/2014 at 12:52 PM
Jo Marsh
17 August 2014 | Jo Marsh

Taking the Plunge!

Why Billy Button? Why the Alpine Valleys? Why now?

When I'm making a decision on buying a car or buying a new appliance, I research it to death, endless hours spent on the internet looking up reviews and comparisons before I will commit to purchase, a process that generally takes weeks. I am in general quite indecisive. However, when it comes to the big decisions in my life I tend to make them spontaneously on gut feeling alone, with little or no research and planning. I make a decision, I commit to it and I get on with it.

The first such decision that has lead me to where I am today was my decision to study winemaking. In my final year at school I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do for a career, I was good at chemistry and maths, so I decided to study a Chemical Engineering and Science double degree at Adelaide University. I was in my second year of this course, not really enjoying my studies or where it was likely to lead me, when I had a conversation with a fellow student who told me of their plans to work in the wine industry when they graduated. At this point I didn't even really drink wine, just the occasional taste, but it got me thinking. It sounded like it would be fun and involved living in beautiful country areas (I've never been much of a city chick!). By the time I got home that night my mind was made up - I was going to be a winemaker! The next day I withdrew from my courses, went and toured the Waite Campus where the Oenology course was run and submitted my transfer papers. The rest, as they say, is history! But I still vividly remember that moment in my life when I made the decision.

My decision to start Billy Button Wines was not dissimilar. I moved to the Alpine Valleys at the start of 2012 and immediately fell in love with the region and and the people, I had never felt so at home or welcome in any of the regions I had previously lived and worked. Within 2 months I had bought a block of land in Porepunkah and 12 months later had built a house - I knew immediately that this was the area I wanted to settle down. But 2 years on despite doing what I loved doing, living where I loved living and being surrounded by an incredible bunch of people I still didn't feel completely satisfied - was this all life had to offer? The answer came to me one afternoon in late 2013 while I was emptying barrels at Feathertop, where I worked as winemaker. "Why don't I start my own brand?" Just thinking about it made me feel so happy that I knew it was what I had to do. By the time I'd finished emptying those barrels, I had it all planned out and there was no going back. In typical Jo fashion there would be no gentle transition, but instead I jumped right in the deep end deciding to commit to it full time. The next day I handed in my resignation and then began planning how and if I could make it work financially. I clearly remember the response I got from my financial planner when I told him - "it's not too late to get your job back is it?".

From that very first thought, I wanted my wine brand to be sourced exclusively from the Alpine Valleys because I had come to recognise the quality and potential of this region that had become so dear to me. During my time in the area I had developed friendships with many of the amazing growers of the Alpine Valleys so sourcing top quality fruit was not difficult. The next decision was what to name my brand - I wanted it to be fun and accessable and most importantly have a link to the region. Billy Button fit the bill perfectly, these little native yellow daisies grow prolifically on the tops of Mt Bogong (Falls Creek), Mt Feathertop (Mt Hotham) and Mt Buffalo over the summer, creating fields of gold. Thanks to my aunt Maureen for the suggestion!

There have been plenty of ups and downs along the way, but there have been no regrets. Now, 9 months after the idea first popped into my head I'm ready to release my very first wines! 

Time Posted: 17/08/2014 at 5:31 PM