Drinking Victoria: Tim Byrne & Niki Nikolovski

Published on 28 September 2021

Photo: Tim Byrne and Niki Nikolovski of Babche Wines

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

Tim Byrne picked up Niki Nikolovski for her job interview at the top of a dirt lane on the Bellarine Peninsula in a beat-up John Deere tractor, ciggy dangling from his mouth. “Who is this guy?” Nikolovski thought. Now the two share a wine label, a life and a child (and no more ciggies). The duo behind Babche Wines are advocates of organic farming, and tend to multiple vineyards on the Bellarine Peninsula and are currently in the process of planting their own vineyard and permaculture farm in Timboon. Both their sparkling chardonnay (aptly named Farmer’s Fizz) and pinot noir are made by hand, in small batches without additions.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is… 
Tim Byrne: Anywhere the owner is not far from being the one pouring your glass. Wolseley Wines on the Surf Coast is a great example, the epitome of grassroots. If you ever visit and have the pleasure of meeting Will Wolseley himself you’ll understand.

Niki Nikolovski: Smithward. Georgina Russell and Graham Hill focus on Victorian producers, who they both personally visit. When they got in touch with us, we were surprised, as we’re a tiny operation, but there they were. Completely unpretentious and genuinely curious about what our state has to offer.

When someone hands us a wine list in a restaurant, we're grateful to be in a restaurant about to choose a wine.

The Victorian spirits we're loving most right now are... 
TB: We have not had a stiff drink for over a year. Mostly because Niki is still breastfeeding. The last spirit we enjoyed was Teddy & The Fox gin distilled locally on the Bellarine. It was smooth and balanced, perfect on its own.

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than…
NN: Tahbilk current-release marsanne. They’re always sound and have the ability to go the distance if you’re patient enough with them. 

Our favourite place to buy booze is…Blackhearts & Sparrows online has been our lockdown go-to.

I’d love to see us planting/brewing/distilling more… 
NN: We’d love to see more grape growers transitioning to organic practices in Victoria because that is the future. 

The last three delicious things we drank were…
A 2020 Cos Frappato we drank recently had an ethereal quality. It was rustic but fine-tuned, pure and embodying its origins.

Moreau Naudet’s 2018 Chablis is a wine that made us switch off the critical thinking and swallow. It was zippy, yet smooth and whole.

And a drink we’re consistently enjoying is our daily beer post-work in the winery. We’ve been pruning all season and there is nothing quite like it at the end of a day, regardless of who makes it.

My guilty pleasure in the fridge/drinks cabinet/at the bar is… 
TB: Any half-decent añejo tequila, great for wedging in between beers when the sun is shining.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been realising there are many representations of grape varieties outside their traditional styles. Also, embracing new varieties that climatically thrive in Australia.

For us, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is…We’re embarrassed to say it feels like we live under a rock and don’t know many folks in the drinks world. The most inspiring people to us are those moving toward regenerative farming.

Babche Wines, babchewines.com

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