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Billy Button Wines

Blog and News

Alex Mitchell
1 May 2015 | Alex Mitchell

Hot Autumn Reds

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!

Time Posted: 01/05/2015 at 3:47 PM
Alex Mitchell
9 April 2015 | Alex Mitchell

End of Vintage Dinner

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. 

Time Posted: 09/04/2015 at 3:18 PM
Alex Mitchell
31 March 2015 | Alex Mitchell

Autumnal Goodness and New Releases

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!

Time Posted: 31/03/2015 at 6:44 PM
Alex Mitchell
1 March 2015 | Alex Mitchell

The Fast and The Furious

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.

Time Posted: 01/03/2015 at 2:44 PM
Alex Mitchell
7 February 2015 | Alex Mitchell

Here we go!

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!

Time Posted: 07/02/2015 at 10:36 PM
Alex Mitchell
21 January 2015 | Alex Mitchell

The Versatile Vermentio is the third of the Billy Button Wines to sell out

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!
It is also available in Melbourne at The Valley Cellar Door

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.

Time Posted: 21/01/2015 at 2:07 PM
Alex Mitchell
21 January 2015 | Alex Mitchell

Billy Button The Torment Riesling named The Wine of the Week January 13th

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.

Time Posted: 21/01/2015 at 1:36 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