Australian wine is in a constant state of flux; of change, evolution and revolution which sees new techniques, vines and wineries popping up all the time. One such winery is the wonderfully named 'Commune of Buttons' which is headed up by Jasper Button. Jasper has been involved in the wine community since he was a lad. He grew up in the Basket Range region in the Adelaide Hills and helped to plant twelve acres of vines on the family farm when he was just 10 years of age. But while he loved helping out, he wasn’t bitten by the wine bug back then. After several years living away from home, mostly in the beautiful surf haven of Byron Bay, Jasper returned to the farm and decided to make wine after the family struggled, like many other grape growers at the time, to sell their fruit to wineries in the region. So Jasper started Commune of Buttons with his sister Sophie in 2012, and they’ve quickly gained a following for their ‘delicate, shimmering’ wines. These are wines made with minimal intervention in the winery but maximum intervention in the vineyard. Wines inspired by a vibrant community of winemakers in a truly beautiful part of Australia. Wines inspired by travels from far and wide but which come from a special place called home.
Jasper Button - dreaming of a life in paradise
The Buttons moved to the Adelaide Hills over 20 years ago with a dream. They dreamt of an idyllic lifestyle growing grapes and raising their children in a beautiful location. Through hard work and dedication, they made this dream a reality. They purchased a property that had once been the location of a hippy commune - one of several that sprang up in the Adelaide Hills after the dawning of the new age of Aquarius. But the Buttons weren’t here to relive the former glories of a generation inspired by acid and astrology, and they weren’t thinking that it would be a great name for a wine label in twenty years! Instead they were here to grow the best grapes they possibly could. The whole family pitched in to help with the back breaking work of planting the vineyard - a tough job made tortuous by the contours and slopes of the Adelaide Hills. But many hands make light work, and it wasn’t long before the vineyard was established and was producing grapes that were in high demand as Australia’s reputation for cool climate wine styles began to grow. Going back twenty years places us in the mid to late 1990s. This was boom time for Australian wine. Australian Chardonnay was flavour of the month around the world and the Adelaide Hills was one of the regions where demand for grapes far outstripped supply. As a result the Buttons, like other grape growers across Australia, had no problems finding buyers for the produce from their unique terroir. Their place is in a stunning location that could have easily featured in any campaign wishing to dispel the myth of Australia as just a hot and dry place, home to industrial winemaking and wine production growing on a monumental scale.
“Our farm is surrounded by beautiful bushland. This, combined with very steep aspects, allows for a particularly interesting microclimate. We have really cool evenings but we can retain humidity even in the height of summer.”
While over the years the perception of Australian wine has evolved and improved as awareness of our diverse grape growing regions has developed, the boom times for the Australian wine community couldn’t last forever. Tastes changed over time and before long an insatiable demand for Australian Chardonnay was replaced by a rampant loathing as the ranks of the ‘Anything But Chardonnay’ army grew by the day. Grape growers that had once had people falling over themselves to buy their grapes were now having to look at either making wines themselves or converting to other forms of agriculture. This is the situation that the Buttons found themselves in just a few years ago. Would they stick or would they twist? Would they move elsewhere or reshape their idyllic existence? At the time Jasper was following a different life having worked as a chef in Amsterdam, Byron Bay and Adelaide, but he heeded the call to come home and help sort things out with the family.
Decision time: should the growers become winemakers?
What do you do when the thing that you’ve worked all your life for is no longer providing for your family? The Buttons knew they had a vineyard producing amazing fruit, they just lacked the confidence to take the leap into winemaking. Enter Anton Von Klopper. Anton is revered by many as one of the leaders of Australia's natural wine movement, a winemaker who topped his winemaking class but quickly rejected the conventional winemaking rule book. The teachings of biodynamics guru Rudolf Steiner became the source of solutions to the problems Anton was seeing in the vineyard. Natural farming and minimal intervention winemaking replaced lessons in chemistry and chemical sprays from school. It was a philosophy that resonated with others in the region, especially after they tasted the wines Anton was making under his Lucy Margaux label. In fact, it was one of Anton’s wines (a Lucy Margaux red blend) that gave Jasper his light bulb moment in wine. The wine was fresh, vibrant and delicious. It had an energy that made him say, “Wow! This is what wine is meant to taste like. Now I get it!” And with that the future course was set for the Buttons. The grape growers would become winemakers and the next stage in a journey already twenty years' in length, had begun.
A naturally bright future
While we have focused on his pivotal influence in the move to winemaking, it wasn’t just Anton who inspired and assisted Jasper and the Button’s journey to winemaking. Other members of the close knit community of grape growers and winemakers in the Basket Range area helped with advice, encouragement, loans of equipment and a relaxing chat over beers at the end of a hard day. Local winemakers like Brendon Keys, Taras Ochota, James Erskine and Gareth Belton alongside those from further afield like Tom Shobbrook in the Barossa. Each has helped shape Jasper’s wine philosophy, one that is rooted in the belief in maximum human intervention in the vineyard. They do things the old fashioned way, working hard to farm organically without the use of chemicals. In the winery it’s all about minimal intervention, letting the fruit (rather than artifice) do the talking. And oh, what a delicious story that fruit is telling…
'Natural wine is finding a place very quickly through many folks because it makes sense It’s about letting the fruit speak for itself, not the winemaker speaking for the fruit. It makes discussion about what’s in the glass more accessible and therefore more interesting to a wider bunch of people, because fruit speaks to anyone!' Jasper Button
A wonderful community and twenty years of grape growing experience have helped Jasper and everyone involved in the Commune of Buttons wines make a lot of noise in a very short time. In 2016 Jasper was awarded Best New Act at the Young Gun of Wine Awards, recognising him as one of Australia’s most exciting young winemakers. The wines are quickly gaining a reputation for their utter deliciousness with progressive wine drinkers in Australia, Japan, America and the UK. So what next for Jasper Button and the Commune of Buttons family?
The Buttons next steps
Continually improving their farming methods and their wines is a given, but there is also the not-so-small matter of opening ‘The Summertown Aristologist’ in the coming weeks. Whats that? It’s a collaboration between the Buttons and the Von Kloppers, a cellar door and eatery in the nearby village of Summertown. This will allow Jasper to express his passions for food, wine and hospitality by creating a ‘home for people to connect, laugh and enjoy the lifestyle of drinking and eating natural wine & food.’ A place where a vibrant community shares their passion and love for the good things in life. Let us know if you need directions…
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