Drinking Victoria: Campbell Burton

Published on 10 May 2021

Photo: Cam Burton

Your guide to what’s in the glass from the people in the trade.

Campbell Burton is an industry veteran his status cemented by vintages across the globe, a Gourmet Traveller Sommelier of the Year award, a stint as a wine buyer at Builders Arms and as the co-organiser of natural wine party Soulfor Wine. When Burton isn't working on his importing business, Campbell Burton Wines, he’s busy stocking the shelves at his new Fitzroy North store Public Wine Shop, a haven for all things fun, fermented and free of additives. 

The last three delicious things I drank were:

2019 Fuente Guijarro Método Clásico, a cider from a producer located high up in Spain's remote Sierra Nevada mountain range. They’re without question some of the greatest, most unique and seemingly hydrating fermented drinks I've experienced in my entire life. Here you have apple varieties endemic to a land of extreme climate, so rare you can count the number of trees left anywhere in the world on two hands. Manuel Moreno and Sara Bertoni harvest at night and split and pip the apples by hand, before pressing and fermenting the juice. The end result is something that almost defies description, pure magic.

2019 Manon Peaches. I've always loved this cuvee from Monique Millton and Tim Webber at Manon Farm in the Adelaide Hills, but the 2019 vintage has left me utterly without words. It’s made from macerated chardonnay, sauvignon, pinot gris and savagnin juice, all grown on the schist and quartz soils at Manon Farm and is, for me, a very delicious look at the next generation of Australian farming. 

Two Metre Tall Forth Ale. Organic quinoa, buckwheat, rye, oats and barley – all five grains are grown organically on a single farm in the Forth River Valley in Tasmania and then brewed by Ashley and Jane Huntington at Two Metre Tall. This is pure electricity, with lots of fresh, nourishing acidity and relatively low alcohol. If you ever see this in a shop you must try it.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is Napier Quarter. Here you have a small venue run by a brilliant team with many years of experience, sitting on one of the loveliest street corners in Melbourne. The menu is filled with dishes based on great produce from good farms and an ever-changing drinks list revolving around wine, beer and spirits from small producers. The wine list is concise and always very interesting, we love having a glass of wine here. 

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant I really love telling the somm what you and your group are in the mood for and letting them choose for you. That feeling of catching up with old friends, not looking at the wine list at all, and allowing the team to choose for you is, for me, just awesome. 

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than the 2019 Hochkirch Blanc from Henty in south western Victoria. Considering this wine is from a vineyard that’s been farmed biodynamically for 20 years, and is a delicious bottle with or without food, I think it's very hard to go past. There are two bottlings of this wine, one with preservatives and one without, and we really love the one without added SO2. This is a really beautiful and outrageously good value snapshot of great Victorian biodynamic farming. It's round with delicious yellow fruit and has the subtle influence from time spent in the barrel. This wine is pretty much always in the fridge at Public.

My favourite place to buy booze is ...well, we're so lucky in Melbourne to have a host of really interesting independent retailers. Each one has its own strengths and brings something great to the Melbourne wine scene. On the south side, the Toorak Cellars team have been doing great things for years and industry legends Blackhearts & Sparrows need no introduction. City Wine Shop is where my Melbourne adventure began and will always be very close to my heart. Punchin’ Bottles is a great pop-up bottle shop from the Embla team in the CBD. Cult of the Vine is an excellent store in Brunswick that really demands a visit. Samuel Pepys in Northcote is a great, Mr West in Footscray is an awesome shop run by a highly experienced bar team. Act of Wine in Southbank has a great selection, and we love buying sour beer from Carwyn Cellars and Wine Republic. If you're in Sydney call in to P&V, and if you're in North Fitzroy we'd really love you to swing past Public and say hi.

I’d love to see us planting more cider apples in Victoria because well-made cider is just a joy. For me, when you have sufficiently cold weather, complex and acidic apple varieties, sensitive agriculture and careful production, cider can reach great gastronomic heights. Further, it's low-impact farming and softer on the environment than many other farmed beverages. I urge everyone, if you're not already on board, to grab a bottle of organic, artisan cider from your local independent bottle shop and enjoy it with your next meal at home.

My guilty pleasure in the fridge/drinks cabinet/at the bar is ...I don't really feel guilty about this but one of our all time staples is Aeijst gin from South Styria in Austria. Charlotte and I discovered this exquisite gin in a bar in Vienna in 2017 and we've been madly in love with it ever since. It's made by the Thomann family in a small village only a few kilometres from the Styrian border and is one of the most delicious spirits I've ever tasted. It's also totally organic. We always have a bottle in the freezer at home. It's amazing straight up or with a nice dry tonic, no garnish necessary.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been restaurant wine lists focusing on organic wine. Compared to, say, 15 years ago, diners in restaurants have access to so much more wine that has been farmed organically. Some of the most awarded and loved venues in the state have wine and drinks lists that focus or lean towards producers who farm organically, be they domestic or imported, and this is a great thing. Collectively, we all need to vote with our wallets and support the growers who are working organically and farm using regenerative practices there's obviously never been a more important time for this. Whether we're talking about wine, vegetables, grains, meat or cheese it's all the same small-scale producers, really need the support of the community. As consumers, we reap the benefits of consuming more delicious, healthy, nutrient-rich produce and our immediate environment will thank us too. 

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is you, the consumer. Every time you go into a restaurant or bottle shop and order a product from a young producer, you're helping the next generation of farmers, winemakers, brewers, sommeliers and importers. Encouragement from the consumer is one of the main driving forces for any young person starting out, regardless of where they are in the broad world of fermented and distilled drinks. So please continue to support, with wild enthusiasm, the next group of young people in this state who are growing, making, selling and serving produce from small, interesting farms. 

Anything to plug? From late June, Public Wine Shop will be offering food on premises, so you can enjoy your bottle of wine along with house-made snacks being churned out from the new kitchen.

Public Wine Shop, 179 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, publicwineshop.com.au and campbellburton.com.au

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