Two very talented winemakers, Jo Marsh of Billy Button and Eleana Anderson of Mayford, are neighbours and good friends in the beautiful Alpine Valleys wine region, an area that covers the foothills of the Victorian alps and borders with King Valley to the west and Beechworth to the north. Last week the pair shared the stage at a very interesting masterclass at Different Drop in Pyrmont.

We were welcomed with a glass of the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Torment’ Riesling (King Valley) on arrival. This is the only wine from Jo’s extensive range made with fruit not sourced from the Alpine Valleys.

Jo MarshJo said that she couldn’t resist the opportunity to put her own stamp on one of her favourite varieties when offered a parcel of grapes from an excellent well-established vineyard in King Valley’s Whitlands.

Fermented with indigenous yeasts, the juice was given time on full solids to add texture and flinty, savoury notes to the wine. But the fuller bodied style didn’t detract from the pristine citrus flavoured fruit, which was buoyed by a laser-like acidity. An unusual style of riesling and one of my favourite wines of the night.

Another highlight was the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Feisty’ Friulano.  Jo explained that she first came across friulano, a grape that originates from the Friuli-Venezie-Giulia region of North-East Italy, when she took up the position of Head winemaker at Feathertop, one of the Alpine Valleys oldest wineries. (Jo was previously head winemaker at Seppelt.)


Billy Button range

‘The Feisty’ Friulano is made in a style which also lends texture and complexity to a very fruity variety. Approximately two-thirds of the wine, for example, was barrel fermented in old French oak. When the 2014 inaugural vintage of this wine was released it attracted a number of standout reviews.

In contrast to Jo, Eleana Anderson only makes wine from her own vineyards, which were established with a modest planting of shiraz in 1995. Eleana and her husband, vigneron Bryan Nicholson, also planted tempranillo and chardonnay in 2002.

Comparing the 2014 Billy Button ‘The Alluring” Tempranillo with the 2014 Mayford Tempranillo was an interesting lesson on how winemaking styles can bring out different qualities in this versatile Spanish variety.

The Mayford Tempranillo 2014 was a well structured, complex wine. The distinctive tempranillo flavours of raspberry, blackberry and liquorice were complemented with spices and earthy notes and framed by powdery, tongue coating tannins. Wine critic Campbell Mattinson scored the previous vintage 97 points, describing it as “the tempranillo Australia had to have…a truly stunning wine.” Eleana thinks the 2014 is even better! (The Wine Front, 27 October 2014)

‘The Alluring’ was a vibrant, juicier style of tempranillo, perhaps lacking the depth and complexity of the Mayford but bright, elegant and very enjoyable.

The 2014 Mayford Chardonnay was another highlight. Full bodied and packed with fruit, it is also a very elegant, well structured wine. Eleana believes it will evolve beautifully with age.

Definitely two wineries to put on your radar!

by Merrill Witt, Editor

Photos: Eleana Anderson and Jo Marsh