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Jasper Button - #010

Jasper Button returned home from travelling and surfing the world, along with his sister Sophie, to help out at their family vineyard, planted over two decades ago by their mother.

They began restoring the site and moving to organic and biodynamic farming. Then started making wines rather than sell off their grapes.  The wines are made naturally with only minimal sulphur additions and cool, slow and gentle ferments.

 

www.communeofbuttons.com

Instagram @commune_of_buttons

 

LINKS

New logo by Billlie Justice Thompson

Anton von Klopper
Sam Scott
Steven George- Ashton Hills
Taras Ochota
Peony - Japanese flower 
Nocino - green walnut liqueur
Lerrea
Roman Chamomile
Elderflower
Lemon Balm
Thermal Mass
Downy Mildew
Biodiesel
Summertown Aristologist
Kath Imbibo

TRANSCRIPT, EL DODGO:

 

Jasper:
You dream of always more, or you dream of the idea of having a bigger vineyard and doing more and expanding, and I think any winery in Australia or maybe overseas, but Australia particularly, have this desire, sort of, you become iconic and then you decide that you need to grow 10 times over the years.

Jasper:
Expansion becomes the only sort of possibility, which I think is probably in the end to the detriment of the wine quality and the nature of what you're doing, and so.

Ben:
Hello, and welcome to another late episode of Real Wine People, and today I'm talking with Jasper Button of the Commune of Buttons, high up there in the Adelaide Hills. Jasper is a traveling surfer, grew up on this property, and traveled surfing through Barr and Bali, and eventually came back to sort of resurrect the vineyard and start the brand along with his sister Sophie.

Ben:
It has been a long time between drinks for me, for episodes. I apologize for that. Probably will be apologizing a lot more. I'll be apologizing for apologizing, soon. We're in the middle of Vintage over here, right now. I had lots of feedback from all the listeners, all of you guys, so thanks so much. Any chance you get, you can drop me a line. We have an email address now which is hello@realwinepeople.com.

Ben:
You can go to the website, of course, to www.realwinepeople.com, where we have show notes that have links to everything we spoke about today, and some may have noticed we have a new logo which was designed by Billy Justice Thompson, a south Australian based artist. Her links are also on the show notes page for Jasper Button.

Ben:
Any questions, comments, please let me know. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy this episode with Jasper Button. Hi, Jasper.

Jasper:
Hello.

Ben:
How are you?

Jasper:
I'm pretty good.

Ben:
Good.

Jasper:
I think it's working.

Ben:
Great.

Jasper:
Sounds pretty good.

Ben:
Cool. Well, thanks for having me, mate, at Commune of Buttons here in the hills. It's a mean driveway you got.

Jasper:
It is. Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, it took me a while to set this gear up, and just chatted about so much cool stuff just then, and we want to keep doing that, but I thought first, just a general rundown, I mean, were you born here in the hills?

Jasper:
Yeah, so we ... well, I came up to the hills with my family in 1984, so I was two years old. We got our first house in Ashton. We lived there for 10 years and then we moved to this property here in Basket Range in 1995 or six, and then I've not been living here ever since. I've traveled a lot, and moved interstate and overseas.

Jasper:
But it's always been home, and the vines themselves have been in the ground from that first year, so I think the first wines went in in '95, and yeah.

Ben:
Wow. Have they been organic the whole time?

Jasper:
No. Basically, my parents ran the vineyard to sell grapes, and they had contracts with some larger companies, and basically provided grapes for those companies, and used the prescribed formulas to grow the grapes for a long time. I came back from being overseas and traveling five years ago, and the vineyard was in disarray. My parents were getting older; they'd had enough of being viticulturists and taking care of vines.

Jasper:
The price of grapes was really low. We weren't making any money. We were breaking even or losing money every year, and you know, those bigger contracts, and the whole market actually had collapsed in the Adelaide Hills for fruit, that, I guess the models weren't sustainable, and the demand just wasn't there, so they were at a decision, at a point, where they were thinking of maybe selling the farm or pulling the vines out.

Jasper:
And that's when me and my sister came back.

Ben:
Right. Had you been traveling with your sister?

Jasper:
No, she was doing her own thing, but it was, I guess, serendipitous that we ended up both back here at the same time in 2013. Yep.

Ben:
And your sister's Sophie, is it?

Jasper:
Yeah, Sophie. Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah. Cool. Where were you traveling for five years?

Jasper:
I was actually surfing a lot on the east coast in Byron Bay and also in Bali, and just kind of enjoying my 20s. I didn't have any responsibilities and I was just sort of living life, which was really nice, but it was always in the back of my mind that something could or should happen with the property, and I guess the time was right.

Jasper:
I'd just turned 30, 31, and there was just this thing in the back of my head that kept growing, that maybe it was time to come home and see what was going on.

Ben:
Right, so you just walked up one day and thought, was it anything that finally pushed you to come back, or ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah, I mean, it was a few things. I think I'd done my dash on the north coast, and I was really looking for a new project, a new source of inspiration. I'd always enjoyed growing things and having a vegetable garden and these kinds of things, and I just thought that to expand that, I'd had no real drive to make our own wine or anything like that.

Jasper:
When I got back, I just thought, "Okay, if the farm is not being economically viable, then surely there's a way. This is a beautiful spot. There's a lot of land here. Obviously we can do something." And that's where I started, yeah.

Ben:
So, you came back, yourself and Sophie, here at the same time, and you just went, "Look, we're going to jump into this vineyard and get cracking."

Jasper:
Yeah. I mean, I didn't really know what I was doing so much, but you know, we were doing the things, you know, slashing, spraying, putting the wires up, all of this kind of stuff. In '13, we didn't have anyone to buy the grapes, and so I'd started cold calling everyone in the hills. I was just like, "Okay, someone's going to buy these bloody grapes. Someone will buy these grapes. Surely, someone's going to want to buy these grapes."

Jasper:
And I eventually got to meet Anton Bonclaper, so I got his name, I can't remember, from someone who said, "He's got a vineyard. I don't think it's that productive at the moment. He's making wine. Why don't you give him a call?" Might've even been Sam Scott, someone like that, and so I got his number off Sam and we ended up having a chat, and I think he rolled around that afternoon, and yeah, he was excited for the pinot. Not that interested in the chardonnay, but said, "I can pay good money for the pinot noir, and let's begin the journey."

Ben:
Great.

Jasper:
Yeah.

Ben:
And so you've got ... I mean, this property here, you're saying. It's beautiful, but you've got three hectares, so the block behind the shed that we're in now, that's the pinot?

Jasper:
No, so the block behind the shed is one and a half hectares of chardonnay, and then going up the hill there's pinot noir, and then the other side, on the east facing slope of the hill, is the pinot noir.

Ben:
Oh, so you've got chardonnay and pinot noir.

Jasper:
Yes, and we've got eight rows of nebbiolo.

Ben:
Oh, wow.

Jasper:
Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, cool. Nice. The pinot got taken care of. What happened with the chardonnay and the nebbiolo?

Jasper:
Well, the chardonnay, because we couldn't sell all of it, I ended up making three barrels.

Ben:
Right, and you hadn't made one before.

Jasper:
And I hadn't made one before. I went and saw an old family friend, Stephen George, from Ashton Hills, and I got a funny masterclass from him about how to make white wine from a basket press, and he gave me three barrels and said, "Good luck."

Ben:
Wow.

Jasper:
And yeah, I didn't really know what I was doing, but it was fun knowing we had our straw, and basket presses, and grapes, and-

Ben:
All in this shed here?

Jasper:
Yes.

Ben:
Cool. And that was the '14 vintage, or the '13?

Jasper:
No, that was '13.

Ben:
'13. Yeah, cool. Yep.

Jasper:
Yeah, and it was a total mess, and took us almost a whole day to press half a ton-

Ben:
Oh wow.

Jasper:
Of fruit. But it was fun. It was fun, and it spontaneously fermented, like chardonnay does in barrel, and yeah, we made wine, and it was quite funny because I'd always assumed that wine making was going to be this very technical, very sort of intricate process, requiring a lot of control and a lot of manipulation, and it actually wasn't.

Jasper:
It was pretty cool just to squeeze the juice and watch the grapes ferment, and actually what came out of it was really nice. I was like, "That's actually pretty good."

Ben:
Cool. And then what did you do with that wine? Did you bottle it up and ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah, we bottled it, and we drank it. We bottled it and we drank it. We didn't sell it, so like in '13 we didn't sell any wine.

Ben:
Sure. And then '14, you decided to make a few more, or ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah, so what was beautiful was, so that was kind of the beginning. We had those three barrels. We had Anton buying the grapes that year, and actually that same year Terrace also bought a little bit of the chardonnay and so we had people that were interested in the vineyard again, and we'd made a little bit of wine, and it was just starting to grow so the wheels were slowly beginning to turn again.

Jasper:
And there was a renewed sort of interest in what was happening, you know, instead of it being an immense chore which I think my parents had seen it as for a number of years. There was interest. There was energy. And you know, I was going over to Anton's every now and again just to sort of hang out and see what he was doing, and you know, talk wine with him a little bit.

Jasper:
I remember the first time we went over there and he had a bottle of his red. It was just a red blend. It was the cheapest red blend, and at the time he was making these very round, rich, fruity wines, picking late, really late. Picking at sort of around 14, 15 percent potential alcohol, and making very rustic, juicy wines.

Jasper:
Lots of oak, lots of flavor, not much acidity, but delicious, and it was actually really eye opening because in the past wine had been something that was, "Don't really get it. All right, that is a good wine. You tell me," kind of thing, and that first glass of that wine was very immediate. I was like, "Ah, this is how wine can taste. This is actually delicious. This is why people are into wine."

Jasper:
It was very immediate. It was something that I was just like, "Okay, that is actually very delicious." And that got me really excited, actually, because I was like, "Oh, it tastes different, but it actually tastes like I think it should taste." You know what I mean?

Ben:
And was that from your vineyard?

Jasper:
No, no, no. It was just a red blend. I'm sure it was probably a mix of Merlot and pinot or something like that, but what was exciting for me was it was this new thing. You know, it was cloudy, and it was quite bright in color, you know, quite light, and just had this taste that was really magical, and I was just like, "Okay, so this is what wine's meant to taste like. How hard is this? Or is this hard? Tell me more."

Jasper:
I was really interested, so that ended up being something that I still remember that was like one of the things I was like, "Okay, we can maybe make wine."

Ben:
Make wine, maybe. Cool. Awesome, awesome. The second year, you made more chardonnay again?

Jasper:
Yeah. We made about the same amount of chardonnay, maybe like one barrel of pinot. Oh, what else did we make that year?

Ben:
What happened to the nebbiolo?

Jasper:
The nebbiolo actually was grafted two years later. It's top grafted chardonnay unto nebbiolo.

Ben:
Originally, it was just the chardonnay block here, and the two pinot blocks.

Jasper:
Yeah, exactly.

Ben:
Yeah, cool.

Jasper:
And so, yeah, that was the beginning. 2013, yeah, we made a little bit more pinot. The interest in the vineyard meant that we actually couldn't use too much fruit from here, so I think we got a little bit of fruit from the Piccadilly Valley as well just to play around with.

Ben:
Sure.

Jasper:
A little bit of Merlot or something, yeah.

Ben:
Wow, that's amazing, yeah. You build this vineyard up to be in demand, and then you kind of get your own fruit, and you'll-

Jasper:
Well, that's kind of the way it goes. You know, and that was due to the fact, because people like Anton and Terrace and others were really starting to hit their straps in terms of the demand and the interest in their wines and in Sydney, into Melbourne, so all of a sudden, yeah, they're actually looking for fruit. They couldn't get enough.

Ben:
Right. Awesome. And what about now? Do you just, you make it all yourself?

Jasper:
Yeah, yes. You know, fast forward six years, I guess, now, we make all of our own wine from our place, and yeah, we've sort of expanded and then retracted a little bit, like we used to buy in quite a lot of fruit, and now we've gone back into something that's a lot more focused and a lot more farm centric, I guess.

Ben:
Yeah, sure.

Jasper:
It's a funny one, wine, like that.

Ben:
It is like that, yeah. We're facing a similar challenge now where we bought this vineyard, the new one, when was it? '14. You know, got it organic. It was massive. We couldn't really ever envisage using all of the fruits. I was like, "At least if we cancel our wine, we can sell some fruit as well, and we have that balance."

Ben:
And then the same sort of thing happened where demand took off, and we're now using all of that fruit, and now we're buying more fruit, and we're just thinking now that it's time to wind that back to the vineyard. I guess, for us, it's taken time for the prices to reflect that's going in, so we couldn't really afford just to live off the vineyard, but we're getting closer now which is cool.

Jasper:
Yeah, I think as a grower-producer you dream of always more, or you dream of the idea of having a bigger vineyard and doing more and expanding, and I think any winery in Australia, or maybe overseas, but Australia particularly have this desire, sort of, you've become iconic and then you decide that you need to grow 10 times over the years.

Jasper:
Expansion becomes the only sort of possibility, which I think is probably in the end to the detriment of the wine quality and the nature of what you're doing, and so I've sort of become aware of that more and more thinking that you can expand in different ways, you can expand in thinking about how you're going to age your wines, how you're going to improve the quality of the fruit coming off the vineyard.

Jasper:
Because, you know, I think vineyards are perhaps the most labor intensive crop there is. I don't know.

Ben:
Yes, yes. It's got to be up there, I reckon.

Jasper:
I don't know. I mean, really, like how many times fingers touch a vine, and how much work goes into the soil, and taking care of them, and always there can be more work that can go into them, and looking at making wine, in that capacity, and expanding in that capacity, rather than your actual acreage, that's something that we've really sort of come to terms with in the last few years.

Ben:
Sure. Yeah.

Jasper:
Definitely.

Ben:
Nice. This property here, do you grow anything else? I mean, it seems to me to be so vast. There's parts of it I wouldn't have seen, but you know, is there a little orchard, or are you doing olives, or ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah, so we've got small mixtures of all sorts of things. We've got another two hectares that the ... we have sheep, 10 sheep. It goes between 10 and 20 sheep. They go through, and they're in the vineyards in the wintertime, and they come out of the vineyards in spring, and go into the other paddocks.

Jasper:
They're a really good tool for maintaining the cover crop in the winter, but you need to use them as a tool. They can overgraze, so they need to be moved into other areas, and so we need space for them. We have the sheep, and my parents grew peony for a long time, so we have about an acre of peony flowers.

Ben:
What are they?

Jasper:
The peony flower, it's a Japanese rose, really.

Ben:
And they're used just for florists, or ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah.

Jasper:
Yep, that was my parents' other sort of passion.

Ben:
Cool.

Jasper:
And they've always been a part of our story, and walnut trees as well. We've planted maybe 20 walnut trees, and I do have a strange sort of idea, when we're a little bit more under control, to actually make a fortified wine with green walnuts and other herbs, so it's like a digestive, in Piemonte they call it a chinato.

Ben:
Yeah, okay, I thought I'd heard of that. Right.

Jasper:
I don't know if they put green walnuts in it.

Ben:
Yeah, okay. No, all I remember about walnuts is-

Jasper:
But making some kind of alcoholic beverage out of the green walnuts, because they're amazing.

Ben:
Green walnuts. You can still eat them when they're green?

Jasper:
Basically, before they lignify inside in the shells, you pick them, and you cut them in half, and they're like jelly inside, basically. They've got a hard rusk, which is the outside shell, but you can cut them with a knife and they're almost like a translucent jelly on the inside, and you steep that in a spirit alcohol, and you make this immensely bitter but really delicious thing.

Ben:
You've done it before, like at a small scale?

Jasper:
Yep.

Ben:
Yeah, okay.

Jasper:
Yep, yep.

Ben:
Wow, well done.

Jasper:
And because of all the other herbs that we have here, so we have like laria, about five different kinds of mint, roman chamomile, elderflower, lemon balm. You know, there's just a few of them off the top of the head. There are so many herbs. It's a beautiful place to grow herbs, in the hills, and a lot of them are in abundance, and just wild along the creek lines, and so it would be really nice to collect them up, and steep them, and blend them with wine, and the green walnuts, and everything, to make something at some point.

Ben:
Yeah, that's cool. Yeah, we have a bit of spirit. We have a local distiller that we got certified so we get the spirit distilled, but it's also, so we've made a fortified, it's like a port, which, the spirit is from our own property, which is cool, but it's also great because when you stuff up your barrels, you know, when we experiment, we do things wrong all the time.

Ben:
And it's like, "Oh, what do we do with these barrels?" "Oh, just get them distilled, and you get this spirit, and you can make something out of it." You know, so nothing's wasted. Yeah. I think that's a good way to do it.

Jasper:
Yeah, no, I'm into it. I am. I think it would be really nice, and those kinds of digestive drinks, they have their place in dining, and they can really speak of a place, mountain herb drinks.

Ben:
Cool. When's it being released?

Jasper:
Yeah, no, exactly, I don't know. When we get our act together. We've got many other things that we've got going on, yeah.

Ben:
From the three hectares here, the three varieties, how many different wines do you make?

Jasper:
We sort of end up making, depending on the year, but we sort of have six sort of semi-permanent lines of wine that we make from this farm. We still buy in a little but of Shiraz from out tones, and we buy in a little bit of pinot gris from out tones, as well, and so we make our pet-nat from that.

Ben:
From the pinot gris?

Jasper:
From the gri, yep, and then a table red from the Shiraz, and then the rest is sort of spinning around the five wines that we make from here.

Ben:
From here, which his the two pinots?

Jasper:
Yep, two pinots. Yep. Basket Town and Gloria.

Ben:
Are they separate blocks, or is ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah, Basket Town is a bit of a blend. In good years, it's a blend of the two blocks, basically, and then the Gloria is from the single hectare of the older vines, which is-

Ben:
Facing east.

Jasper:
Facing east, facing ... yeah.

Ben:
So the difference, they're facing east; are they ripening later, or ... ?

Jasper:
Well, pinots are really funny here, because it's really borderline that we can grow it here, really. In some years, it's fantastic. In some years, we really struggle, and it's a real line baller. The climate in the Adelaide Hills, it's not really cool climate in the summer.

Jasper:
I mean, we do have these days that it's like 35 degrees, 40 degrees. Hot, raging heat, and it can last for a week, in the middle of January, February, take your pick. But what's interesting is that in the evenings it really cools down.

Ben:
Yeah, I noticed that.

Jasper:
Yeah, it gets cold, and it gets devilishly cold, and then humid, and you know, you can have these really hot days, and then you wake up in the morning, you go out into the vineyard when the sun's coming up, and there's water all over the leaves, and then it doesn't really get super hot until sort of 11:00 o'clock, so we have this sort of strange kind of duality in the climates in the summertime, where it's cool and humid in the evenings, and then it comes through and then really heats up, and by the afternoon it's not very pleasant at all.

Jasper:
And so the pinot, it's funny. We can drag our pinot noir here, and we can still get fruit concentration and acidity. We struggle with fruit ripeness, like in terms of phenolics, so it's kind of a dance, and I actually don't think that we've got to a point where we're fermenting the grapes in a way that they should be fermented in the hills. I think there's a pinot style out there for the Adelaide Hills that we still-

Ben:
Working towards.

Jasper:
Yeah, that we're working towards, for sure. It's great that I pay the most attention to, and put the most amount of effort into, into trying to understand what the thing is that it should be.

Ben:
Sure. And any successes, or have you started to find a path?

Jasper:
Well, the [inaudible 00:27:58] that we made in 2018 was really interesting, I think. It's one of the more moreish ones that we've made. We picked the pinot quite late, late-ish, when it was ripe, and we direct pressed it, basically, and then ... no, that's not true. We let it sit for a couple of days, as whole bunches, and then we pressed it.

Jasper:
And it sort of gave this very, you know, it's like it's a red, almost like a rosé, but ripe, and fruit-forward, but it has texture, you know? It has texture, and I think the acidity's there, and it ends up being quite a delicious wine, so this is something that we're playing with, so instead of fermenting on skins til the end, we ferment for two, three, four days or something, and then press it off, and that's the wine.

Ben:
Get those nice turnings out and then discard the rest.

Jasper:
Yep. Exactly.

Ben:
Do you reuse the skins for anything, or just compost?

Jasper:
Well, we have a process for composting, and that works really well in terms of cycling in the viticultural side of things. You pick the grapes, you take what you need, and you compost the rest, and then it goes back into the vineyard. I really love that idea. It's a closed system approach that really works.

Ben:
Yeah.

Jasper:
If I have my act together and we're talking about this other project, it would be really nice to still. You know, like ferment them and still them.

Ben:
Throw some water over them and drain that out, yeah.

Jasper:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ben:
Well, there you go. That's what you're going to do with your night time. You can sit down here, rocking the baby with your still, feel like a meth lab.

Jasper:
Exactly. Just cooking it up. Yep.

Ben:
That was one of the ... so, the [inaudible 00:30:01] went well, like not a full ferment on skins, so then you don't reuse those skins anywhere else in the wine making, at the moment. Compost those. And that's the east block, you did that?

Jasper:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ben:
Your east facing block, yeah? So then, what else is working with pinot on, say, the other block here?

Jasper:
Well, whole bunches are out now for sure. I've done my dash with whole bunches, and trying to make a pinot with whole bunches that I really like. Gentle maceration in terms of extraction, and actually keeping the ferments cool. I've always thought that the ferments should be warm to extract the tannin, and it's healthy, and everything, but I think going forwards we'll be doing much cooler ferments.

Jasper:
Keeping it around sort of 20, 25 is like maxing out majorly. Maybe one day, half a day, at 25.

Ben:
And how do you control that? Within the winery, or ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah, so refrigeration of grapes in the beginning, and then what we usually do is if the ferment's getting too hot, we'll actually drain the juice out of the ferment, and leave it overnight in the cool of the winery.

Jasper:
And that usually burns off two or three degrees over night. It's a good thing.

Ben:
Yeah, nice. Our ferments are in little six or 700 kilo lots, and they're all sort of foot crushed and then hand plunged, but yeah, we do a bit of moving them out at night. We just find that because, you know, if we need to heat them up, we sort of bunch them all together, and then the thermal mass gets everything sort of excited, and then otherwise we split them apart, and spread them out, and they cool down.

Jasper:
The thermal mass is the thing where we can control the temperature, and the thermal mass also allows the ferment to go dry and gives you very good stability.

Ben:
When they're all hanging out together, towards the end of ferment, it's like, "Come on, let's go."

Jasper:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Thermal mass is really important in fermentation, I think. You know, for getting clean. Clean ferments. Yeah.

Ben:
Cool. And then, so then, the chardonnay. You're making two wines?

Jasper:
Yeah, the clover, so it's the long rose which is sort of west facing, and then we have ... actually, it's more northwest facing. And then, going around, we have the ABC, which is more sort of southeast facing, and so it's almost like a bowel, and so a natural amphitheater that we have here, and the soil type's quite different.

Jasper:
The clover is on a thicker clay. We have a lot of red clay. Ancient soils, in Basket Range. Very red clay soils, and when we go around to the ABC side, we basically end up with finding more loamy soils, and the sandstone's actually quite a bit higher, so everything sits on these big sandstone shelves, and those sandstone shelves can be right at the surface of the slope, or they can be recessed right deep down.

Jasper:
And for the ABC, it's maybe just two meters below, or something like that, and basically, the roots of getting into that, the sandstone, and actually the minerality in the ABC wine, now, yeah, it's quite different from the clover which is on this red clay.

Ben:
Yeah, cool. And then the neb. Is that being made and ... ?

Jasper:
Yeah. The neb's really interesting. It's a totally different beast, obviously, being Italian. You know, big bunches. It's the first to go through bud burst. It's the first to flower, and then the last to go through veraison, and the last to pick by about six weeks.

Ben:
Six weeks?

Jasper:
Yeah, so our vintage usually starts at the beginning of March and goes for two weeks, and then everything gets fermented, pressed off, put into barrel, put away. You know, Anzac Day is coming up.

Ben:
Booking your flights to Bali?

Jasper:
Exactly. The whole vineyard's turned yellow, and then it'll be all, it's just like, "No ... maybe. Maybe next week though, as well." And it just kind of goes on. You sort of just go, "How much longer can this go on?" And eventually it does get there.

Jasper:
It really does, and usually we have these big breaking rains which totally change the season, change everything, in May. Sometimes they come in late April, but May, and you sort of get like 80 mils of rain in a week, or something like that, and that's kind of like the end of the season. That's the full-stop.

Jasper:
And so if we see them coming up, then it's getting picked anyway.

Ben:
Right, so you're picking as late as May for them.

Jasper:
Yeah, yeah. We can. Yeah, yeah, no problem. No problem. It's a interesting variety, and it doesn't like the hot weather so much. It's particularly during ripening, and it's not because it starts ripening. It actually closes down and it'll sit there, green, for weeks, if it's too hot.

Ben:
Wow. That's amazing.

Jasper:
It needs the fog. It needs the cool days and the cool afternoons, and then all of a sudden it does its thing.

Ben:
Yeah. Well, that's great. Had you made one before you put it in?

Jasper:
No. I just sort of, you know, in my travels and drinking, I'd always just really loved the mystery of nebbiolo.

Ben:
It's pretty out there, isn't it? Compared to everything else.

Jasper:
You know, it's such a fine sort of tannin wine that's monstrous as well. It's both, and I really like that. It's got this lightness and this prettiness and this thinness to it, but the tannins just pervade, and you end up with this thing that's like, "What? What is this thing?" You know?

Jasper:
And you open the bottle, and you maybe don't think much, and by the last glass you're just-

Ben:
Hooked.

Jasper:
Hooked.

Ben:
Yeah, sometimes you try them and you just go, "Oh, why did I spend so much money on this?" And then you just leave it, and go and do something, or you know, "Maybe I'll crack something else. I'll have another look at it. Oh, it's a bit better. Maybe I can stick with it." And then by the end of it, you're getting married.

Jasper:
Yeah, exactly.

Ben:
Yeah, it's nuts.

Jasper:
Yeah.

Ben:
Oh, that's cool. Winding back to the vineyard, so you've done the grafting here. One of the biggest challenges that you've faced with, I think as we were talking before, you were mentioning the clumping grasses that you've got here that you're trying to manage. How do you manage all of your under vine, or is it just slashing and snipping?

Jasper:
Yeah, I mean, the organic viticulture started in 2013, I think, '14, and in the beginning it was quite easy. I mean, not spraying on the vine, and just spraying copper ... I mean, that's all we did anyway, was spray copper and sulfur, really.

Jasper:
And not spraying under vine was all right, fine. Just mow, do a double pass. We had a few bits of machinery that were sort of, sort of worked. Sort of vaguely worked with these under vine mowers that you can get. There's thousands out there, these orchard mowers.

Ben:
I think I've been through all of them.

Jasper:
Exactly. Yeah. And they kind of, they don't really ... I mean, I would suggest it's like a bandaid. It's like, "Oh, the grass is getting a bit high. I'll just cut it down and that'll be fine." And basically, over the years, now we are confronted with all sorts of challenges in going forwards and being able to make a sustainable organic vineyard.

Jasper:
Not just a not-spraying organic vineyard. No non-organic inputs. Because you still need to look after the soil, you still need to look after the balance in your vines. You know, long grasses, particularly where we are in some of the corners, do promote things like down and mildew.

Jasper:
And you know, it can get really tangled, and really dense, and really out of control really quickly. We are in monoculture vineyards. That's what they are, so even though we promote diversity at some times of the year, other times we actually don't want that, because we dry grow the fruit, the vines, and so they need moisture. They need mulch. They need nutrients. And they need a flow.

Jasper:
They need the soil to be alive and they need the soil to flow for them, and so we're at a point now where we're developing ways of managing that under vine, where we can promote the soil health and prevent loss of moisture, and also keep the vines with access to as much water and nutrients as they can get to.

Jasper:
We're at a point now where we do under vine cultivation, so we have a finger roller, a finger hoe, and that basically cuts down the side of the row and turns the soil over to the under vine, and disturbs the under vine, so it prevents the weeds and forms this mound, and the idea is in the spring time, that's what we're doing through the summer. We're making these mounds.

Jasper:
Sorry, before the winter in the season, and in the early spring we actually take those mounds away.

Ben:
With a blade.

Jasper:
With a blade.

Ben:
Is that a Fischer that you've gone, or is that a ... ?

Jasper:
We've actually got a Suslakov, which is from Bordeaux. It's a mechanical thing they use in their [inaudible 00:40:55], those over the top tractors, but it's basically got a spade plow on it, adjusted for you, so the spade just pulls the soil back under the vine.

Jasper:
In the spring time, the vine is full of the new weeds, and you come through and you de-mound and you remove those weeds, and then hopefully you have a grace period of a couple of months before the new weeds start growing, and then you begin to mound again.

Ben:
Right. Because I think when you're converting ... from our experience from converting vineyards, you do get a grace period where things have been knocked back for years, and it is, as you say, management, but eventually things come back stronger.

Ben:
With us, at the moment. My lawn at home is shocking, but my lawn at the vineyard that I don't want, I can't stop. And I think we did the worst thing ever with our finger weeder, for the mounding, is we had some cootch in an area, and we went through a finger weeder and just mounded it, which just mean we had a 15 to 20 centimeter deep sort of cootch matrix pile that we had to get rid of.

Ben:
Usually the rains would fall and flatten things out, or we went and have a blade, so then we had to borrow this other equipment to go through and try and punch down these big mounds of cootch that were just strangling the vines, taking the nutrients, taking the water. Yeah.

Jasper:
Yeah.

Ben:
It's just ongoing.

Jasper:
It is ongoing, and you have to be careful, as well, that you're not driving the tractor too many times through the vineyard. I mean, I could drive the tractor through the vineyard 100 times if I wanted to, and you don't want to. That's really one of the things you ... okay, because you know, it's a monoculture, yes, but it feels to me more like a garden in lots of ways.

Jasper:
Especially the amount of times that you're going through to do the shoot thinning, and the sucker removing, and you're putting wires up, and you're doing your biodermic applications. You know, you spend a lot of time in there, and you want it to feel and look in a certain way. You don't want it just to be a runway for a tractor.

Ben:
No.

Jasper:
You know? Because you have a relationship with those vines, and you want to look after them, and driving a tractor through them 50 times in a growing season is not something that's conducive to that environment.

Ben:
No. It's like, yeah, the compaction, and the fact that you're sitting there, "How much diesel am I using just to ... ?"

Jasper:
Exactly. Then you're blowing the diesel everywhere, and you're compacting, and you're driving through faster and faster, and you're getting less of a connection with the vines. It literally becomes a chore to drive the tractor through the vineyard, once again, because something else has to be fixed.

Jasper:
You know, I really feel like getting away from that sentiment of basically a vineyard being a chore to get to the end to be able to make the wine, and you can get caught in that sort of feedback loop of thinking, "Okay, there's a problem out there. All right, well, we've got to put that tool on and go and address it."

Jasper:
And, "Oh, there's another problem. We've got to put that on, and now there's an outbreak of that, so we've got to spray." It becomes this thing where you're constantly fighting back these problems, and so long as there's no problems, there is no problem, but that's not true. I don't think so. I think you have to be a little bit more proactive and see the vines for what they are, and see the beauty in things growing together, and the different plants that are growing, and the different ways that the vines are reacting to different things, and watch them grow, and actually take the light in that process.

Jasper:
Because that's actually where the fun part of wine making viticulture is. It's a funny thing, and that's sort of what gets me up in the morning, and excited to be out there. Otherwise, it just is a chore, you know?

Ben:
Yeah. That's really interesting, so we've ... yeah, the size of the vineyard we're running now, it's sort of a lot of the things we're doing is a chore, just because I can't touch every vine anymore like I used to when we started with four hectares, and now we've bought the new place, which is 20, and it's just nuts. It's madness.

Jasper:
Yeah, and that's the decision that you have to make. I mean, everyone is on their own journey in the way that they like to do things, and the way that they think, and getting to that point, and that's the thing that I've been ... I guess there's been a few things that have been warning signs.

Jasper:
Don't get too big, because it will become that thing of, "Oh, god, that vineyard over there has got the worst bunch rate I've ever seen. How did that ever happen?" You know, and then you become this thing where it's just like, "I have to spray 10 times a year no matter what." And you're almost doing it to get to that point, and when you are so big, you do get to that point where you do need to run up on numbers.

Jasper:
There's no other way of doing it, and yeah, I understand and totally respect that that's just the way it's got to be. It's a different kind of approach, you know? But you know, we've only sprayed once here, this season.

Ben:
Late November, no?

Jasper:
Yeah, yeah, and you know, I've seen some downy mildew in some of the suckers, so I know that it's there, but because we spend a lot of time in the vines, it might be naïve, it might be stupid, but I kind of feel like if a change does happen, I will be close to being on top of it.

Ben:
Sure.

Jasper:
Do you know what I mean?

Ben:
I do.

Jasper:
And you know, knowing what the season has done this year, knowing that the pressure is not as strong, knowing that there is a small outbreak of downy mildew that will get worse, no doubt, if we have any rain in January or February, but knowing that it's there and knowing how to sort of treat that and address it.

Jasper:
You know, you can be cool. You can have less input into the vineyard in that sense. You can just sort of let it roll a little bit more, you know? And that's a thing that's a difference between having, as you say, four hectares and 20 hectares. You know? Yeah, they're just different.

Ben:
Yeah, absolutely. No, it's a very good point, and then you know, because it's a smaller one and you're in there so often, I mean, you've seen it, you know where it is. If you get a bit nervy, you can just put a backpack on and go to that point. You don't have to jump on the track to-

Jasper:
Yeah, I was thinking about that. I was, yeah. You can get those air blast backpack sprays, the steel, petrol powered ones, and just-

Ben:
Yeah, off you go.

Jasper:
Go and stand at a vine until it's no downy, or I can just like spray in the direction where the wind usually comes from.

Ben:
Yeah. You know, driving the tractor through, as well, and the diesel thing, we were thinking about that a bit. We have just built with vice parky a little biodiesel plant, so we get all the fish and chip oil from the local fish and chip shop, because we're quite close to a tourist town, so in summer, you know, fish and chips are flying everywhere, so yeah, we're converting that oil to biodiesel so that we can run the tractor.

Ben:
It doesn't mean we just drive whenever we want, but it just makes us feel better about when we do get out there. Yeah.

Jasper:
I did get some biodiesel, and we've got a Kubota, or like a tractor, and then we ran it. We ran it until it stopped.

Ben:
Right.

Jasper:
And the tractor literally stopped. Like, it stopped. It was really weird. Tractors usually don't stop. It literally, the engine died going up the hill, and it stopped, and we couldn't get it to start, and then we opened up the fuel filter and it was literally full of little bits of chips.

Ben:
Yeah, ours is filtered. Yeah. It goes through a few stages.

Jasper:
No, no, it did get filtered. It did get filtered. I don't know what it was. It looked like chips. Maybe it wasn't. But it was definitely really fine bits of something.

Ben:
Fine chips. Nice. Anchovies. Little fish bones.

Jasper:
Little bones, yeah.

Ben:
That's funny. Yeah, don't worry. We're actually going half-half. That's the plant to start. I think we're firing up next week. It depends. It's a longterm project. Yeah, cool, so what's next from here? Just more feeling away with it, and enjoying having a young family?

Jasper:
Yeah, yeah exactly. Balance. Work-life balance. Yeah, I mean, I just want to get the systems down. There's a great calmness and a great sort of sense of harmony when systems are working, and I think it's a huge battle early on, and I'm talking the first 10 years of organic viticulture.

Jasper:
I'm sure it's always a battle, but I think you can find a balance and your vines and your vineyards come into balance, and once you're there I think the sort of uncomfortable feeling in your stomach goes away, or gets smaller, or you don't feel it as often.

Jasper:
But basically, everything needs to be under control, and I would really like to get to that point. I think there's a real art to being able to manage a piece of land and have it in control. You know, it's easier and faster to do it with chemicals, and you can have a really nice looking vineyard with the different sprays and fertilizing and everything.

Jasper:
I mean, it's green, it's very healthy. Whatever. But getting there with organic viticulture, getting to the same spot, and being able to dig into the ground, and there's worms there, and it's healthy, and you've got lady bugs, and butterflies in the vineyard during the spring time, but it still is under control and uniform, and the vines have got the same equal number of bunches and this kind of thing.

Jasper:
There's definitely an art there, I think, when you get to that point.

Ben:
Yeah, absolutely. Closer and closer every year, and then you have a few ups and downs, of course, during that time, but you never get there, which is part of the charm. Or you get there once, and you don't quite get there the next year, and you're like, "Oh, that's nice."

Jasper:
For a moment. You get a moment.

Ben:
Yeah, it's like a Friday afternoon. It's like, "Oh, that's done. This is looking good. Everything's fine. I'm just going to go home." And then Sunday morning it starts hailing, and you're like-

Jasper:
Exactly.

Ben:
Oh, exciting.

Jasper:
Exactly.

Ben:
Well, I'm conscious you've got to get back to the family, mate.

Jasper:
Indeed.

Ben:
Thanks so much for catching up and having a chat.

Jasper:
Thanks. Good talk.

Ben:
Yeah.

Jasper:
Lovely.

Ben:
All right, mate. Well, anything else you want to talk about?

Jasper:
No, I mean, I think we've talked a fair bit, unfortunately, more about vineyards than wine.

Ben:
No, that's what it's about. That's where wine's made.

Jasper:
Wine's good. I mean, the other side of things, the wine side of things, is great. I hope that everyone begins to understand that wine is like a drug, and it's just a fun drug to enjoy, and to kind of health, digestion, and just to get the conversations flowing, and I was talking to my friend about this the other day, about the different kinds of drunk, and the different kinds of substances that you drink to get to a different kind of drunk.

Jasper:
And I think even, and wine is a drug for sure, it's got alcohol in it, it does what it does, but natural wines, they do give this very sort of pleasant drunkenness, you know? And you know, you eat them with good food, and you have a good time, and the conversation gets going, and the digestion happens, and it's a good time.

Jasper:
Because everyone uses some kind of drug. It's part of being human, and I think with natural wine it's very much like something that's healthy. It is healthy and sustainable in that world.

Ben:
Exactly.

Jasper:
In that world, if you choose to partake in those kinds of things, so you know, hopefully people start to see that in Australia and we get a little bit of sort of that food-wine vibe happening, where you can drink a lot and still be cool, still be having a good time.

Ben:
Where can people get your wines? I guess they're generally sold out? Can they jump on a website?

Jasper:
No, I mean, The Aristologist is, The Summertown Aristologist, yeah.

Ben:
Oh, we haven't even talked about that. Your restaurant. It's just legendary.

Jasper:
Yeah, yeah. That's a big one.

Ben:
I'm even going there for a drink with Gareth this afternoon.

Jasper:
Oh beautiful.

Ben:
Yep.

Jasper:
That's nice. Yeah, no, that's a place you can get the wines for sure. They kind of, they float around, man. I don't know. They're around. They are around.

Ben:
They're around.

Jasper:
They're around. The Summertown Aristologist website is cool, and then yeah, I don't know, there's all sorts of places all over Australia.

Ben:
So Kathryn Ambiba does it Australia-wide? Is it?

Jasper:
She does.

Ben:
You exporting anything along?

Jasper:
We do. We export quite a bit to Japan, and Denmark.

Ben:
Cool.

Jasper:
A little bit into France.

Ben:
Nice. Selling ice to the Eskimos.

Jasper:
Yeah, that's right. That's what I think. Singapore's really cool.

Ben:
Cool. I love Singapore.

Jasper:
Singapore is a cool little place, and Hong Kong, but Hong Kong, not so much in-

Ben:
Doing a trade visit at the moment?

Jasper:
Hong Kong, not so much at the moment. Hong Kong, yeah, they're on hold at the moment. But they're usually, and it's such a cool place to visit when it's not in total upheaval. Hopefully they sort it out.

Ben:
Yeah. Cool, man.

Jasper:
Yeah, man.

Ben:
All right, thanks so much.

Jasper:
Voila. Cheers.

Ben:
Well, I hope you enjoyed that episode with Jasper button. All links, show notes, et cetera, can be found at realwinepeople.com. I hope to be speaking to you soon. We've got about two weeks to go of Vintage here. One and a half hectares left on our Quindalup block, which may allow us some time to do a few more interviews and get some more podcasts out.

Ben:
Thanks again, everyone, for listening. If you'd like to, please leave a review on the iTunes or Podcast app. All of that stuff really helps, and I hope to speak to you soon. Thanks very much, bye.

 

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