Not everyone would trade in their only form of transport for a tonne of pinot noir grapes. Thankfully, in 2010, Vanessa Altman waved goodbye to her Nissan Pulsar and welcomed the first fruit into what would become her own project, Switch. Having worked at the organic pioneer Temple Breuer (certified organic way back in 1995,…
Jasper Button Commune of Buttons
Jasper Button somewhat fell into wine. Starting with a thoroughly pragmatic approach to the family’s crop (which just happened to be grapes) from their Adelaide Hills property, Button was quickly ensnared by the wine bug after meeting Basket Range guru Anton van Klopper. A brisk education in natural wine, from growing to making, saw Button launch the Commune of Buttons label. Working with an enviable resource of cool climate fruit from the mature home vineyard – something that would be the envy of many a young maker – Button farms using biodynamic methods and makes wine with a minimal intervention approach. He is also a partner in The Summertown Aristologist, one of this country’s most exciting wine and food destinations. Button was voted the Best New Act at the 2016 Young Gun of Wine Awards.
In the space of a few years, Jasper Button went from winemaking novice playing with unsold grapes to having his wine poured at Noma. A rapid rise indeed for Jasper and his Commune of Buttons label, which he runs with his sister, Sophie, from their family property in Basket Range.
The Button siblings never had any winemaking ambitions before they moved back to South Australia to work on the family’s Adelaide Hills property. Then Jasper met fellow Basket Ranger Anton van Klopper – natural wine trailblazer and the brains behind Lucy Margaux – who was interested in buying some grapes. Anton introduced Jasper to natural wine, and the winemaking neophyte used some of the farm’s unsold fruit to make a couple of barrels of chardonnay in 2013.
“We were playing around with grapes,” Jasper says. “I didn’t really know what to expect. We had 20-year-old vines, and I wanted to find success with those vines. I wanted to make something out of the property. I didn’t come back with an ambition of making wine at all; it wasn’t really about that; it was about finding an economic solution for a really lovely farm.”
In 2014, Commune of Buttons was born. They introduced organic and then biodynamic farming practices to cultivate the chardonnay, pinot noir and nebbiolo vines on the site, which was a former hippie commune (hence the name). Word spread quickly, with the boutique winery part of an Australian natural wine movement whose epicentre is Basket Range and its small but talented winemaking community that includes Taras Ochota (Ochota Barrels), Brendon Keys (BK Wines) and, of course, van Klopper.
“There is fierce competition up here and it’s nice competition, actually. You taste other people’s wines and go, ‘That’s new, that’s something I hadn’t thought of.’ I don’t think there is anywhere else in Australia that’s like that at the moment; the amount of enthusiasm for making really intense, playful but very focused wines that is happening here.”
In 2016 came two milestones: Jasper was awarded Best New Act at the Young Gun of Wine awards and Commune of Buttons’ 2015 ‘ABC’ Chardonnay was poured at Rene Redzepi’s Noma pop-up in Sydney – a significant achievement and a significant wine. “We’ve got six bottles left and it’s such a pleasure to drink four years later, as it’s a really wonderful wine,” Jasper says. Other wines of note include their 2017 ‘Clover’ Chardonnay and the 2018 ‘Gloria’. “That really showed we could make red,” he says of the estate-grown single-vineyard pinot noir.
Currently, most of the fruit that goes into their bottles are from the three hectares of vineyards on their Basket Range property. They do source grapes from select vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, but that could soon change.
“We’re taking less fruit from other places to the point that we’re now maybe taking half a hectare of shiraz and that’s it. Our ultimate aim is to grow everything ourselves.”