Billy Button Fiano 12pk 2017
Jo Marsh is not a box ticker. She embraces every task with great expectation and seeks out the path less travelled. With a focus on alternate varietals, Jo produces an astounding array of wines, which including cellar door only wines, comprises over 20 different varietals, some in miniscule quantities. Working closely with local growers Jo has helped to breath new life into this tiny wine region, and shine a light on the breadth and depth of the grape varietal variation that we have in Australia. Jo follows no rule book, she believes in doing what’s best for the wine, polishing and perfecting, highlighting the fruit and sculpting the palate so the wine flows through the mouth with texture and interest.
'Aussie Italian Whites'
By Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion Magazine (Apr/May 2019)
Jo Marsh loves the Alpine Valleys for its treasure trove of grapes on offer. When she started her Billy Button label five years ago with 10 single-varietal wines, three were Italian whites – friulano, verduzzo and vermentino. Jo has since added arneis, malvasia and prosecco. “The allure of Italian whites is they are about texture and the palate, not about the nose,” she says. “And they just combine so well with food.”
Before moving to the region, these wines hadn’t been on Jo’s radar. “I knew nothing about verduzzo, but I thought it would be interesting as there weren’t many in Australia. When I tasted the vermentino in the vineyard, I couldn’t say no,” she says. “And friulano has such intriguing texture, and the amount of flavour of the fruit is remarkable. I was keen to explore it further.”
So how does a winemaker who is new to a grape variety approach it in the winery? “Let the fruit guide you,” Jo says. “If you try to do something [the fruit] doesn’t want, it becomes very obvious, and so I do very little other than treat the variety simply. Then you learn through experience, and the following year you might be guided towards one direction, such as leaving the wine on lees longer and not rushing it to bottle, which I realised very quickly is the case with verduzzo. It’s a challenge, but I like a challenge!”
Complementing her diverse range, Jo’s winemaker husband Glenn James has two extended skin-contact whites made in amphora. Pandora’s Amphora is a co-fermented blend of vermentino, fiano and moscato giallo sourced from the Alpine Valleys. It spends 120 days on skins, as does the newest addition, Taurian, a friulano from Tasmania. Both are fabulous, but Taurian is particularly beguiling, with beautiful phenolics. Food is essential with both – a roast chicken stuffed with preserved lemon is a delicious start.