Growing grapes is “in our DNA,” says Bass River’s Frank Butera. He comes from a long line of vignerons, beginning with his dad, Pat Butera, who planted vines on their South Gippsland property in the late ‘90s, and before that, his grandfathers and great-grandfathers who grew grapes in their native Calabria, which is “roughly where the shoelaces on the boot sort of hang”.
But why Gippsland? “Our family used to spend childhood holidays in the region,” says Frank. “We just really enjoyed that area for its simplicity and openness, and the people just seemed to be a lot more accommodating. In the end it was really easy for us to decide to make it our playground.”
Pat Butera bought the Bass River property in the early ‘80s, but it was another decade or so before he planted vines. There were barely any other wineries in Gippsland at that time, and it was thought back then that the region probably wasn’t suitable for grapes.
Two decades later, the Buteras (along with the other winemakers who chose to set up in the region) have proven that Gippsland is more than just suitable for grape growing. “Grapes, especially Pinot, grow exceptionally well here,” says Frank.