Bellarine Peninsula, Geelong, Victoria
Babche started with Niki Nikolovska, a Toronto, Canada native who spent every summer of her youth with her grandparents in rural Macedonia (who –among other things –made their own wine). Though she went into a career in health sciences, she never shook that belonging she felt when she was out in the country, on the land. She would spend her vacations working harvests abroad, before eventually taking the plunge to commit to viticulture full time, settling in 2016 on the Bellarine Peninsula (part of the Geelong GI in southern Victoria). This is where Niki met her husband Tim Byrne –a Victoria-native and trained oenologist/viticulturalist –and they created Babche.
Babche is a term of endearment for ‘Grandma’ or ‘Nanna’ in the Slavic languages of Niki’s youth. Niki continues to telephone her own Babche, now 101 years-old (!!), almost every day. She remains a source of inspiration for the hand-made style of wine that Niki and Tim aspire to craft.
This ideology has informed the winemaking at Babche: hand-cranked basket presses, gravity-movement, little technical equipment, and zero additives. Though “zero additives” has become a buzz-phrase, Babche focuses on things like hygiene, harvest pH levels, and good farming to ensure that, even with no protection from sulfur, the wines remain sound, clean, and prime conduits of the land.
And, of course, the winemaking reflects the work being done in the vineyards. Tim and Niki started out by working closely with conscientious growers in the Bellarine region, with a focus on pinot noir and chardonnay. They are now consulting on and pruning two new small estate plantings on the Bellarine, adding shiraz, verdelho, and pinot gris to their repertoire. They also, in 2020, purchased a small plot of land in Timboon (west of Geelong). They’ve been propagating vines for the last 3 years in preparation and are aiming to begin planting this year. The site, on a dark clay and limestone escarpment, will be their permaculture farm and vineyard, and the new home for Babche
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What Jane and Jon Have to Say...
“Give it ten years, and Babche will be one of the most important producers in Australia. That’s a lofty statement, but we are astounded by what this young winery is doing: the establishment of their own permaculture farm, their commitment to representing the terroir of the Bellarine Peninsula, and their ability to create sound, captivating wines with zero sulfur and lower ABVs. We can’t wait to see (and taste) all that they do.”
Because there’s no chance for intervention and tweaking later in the winemaking process, extra care is paramount. Grapes are tended organically and the primary focus is to diversify the ecosystem that supports their growth.”