Place of Changing Winds

A Special, High-density Vineyard on the Southern Foothills of Mount Macedon

Place of Changing Winds is the vineyard project of Bibendum’s founder and owner Robert Walters. It is a single site in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria that Walters and his team began planting in 2012. Walters had searched for almost five years to find the right location, which turned out to be in a hamlet called Bullengarook, on the southern foothills of Mount Macedon, about one-hour north-west of Melbourne. To the best of our knowledge, this area was called Warekilla by the original inhabitants, the Wurundjeri people. This means ‘Place of Changing Winds’, a characteristic of the site that still holds true today.

‘No compromise, no regrets’ is the motto here. Rob has drawn on his years of experience observing many of the great growers of the world and translating to his setting what he considered to be best practices. The methods applied are labour-intensive and designed to maximise soil and vine health and foster a strong connection between the plant and its environment—and thus realise an expression of place in the resultant wines.

The elevation is high (500-plus metres), and average rainfall is typically between 700 and 900mm. It’s a genuinely cool site with cold nights and a massive diurnal range, which Pinot and Chardonnay love. In summer, the range can often exceed 20°C or more, which leads to heavy morning dews and strong frosts. The soil is eroded quartz, sandstone and quartzite over clay and silt, as well as some eroded basalt from a rare form called mugearite. The bedrock is over 400 million years old and was mostly formed at the bottom of the ocean in the Ordovician Period. In simple terms, it is rocky, gravelly soil, historically known as Bullengarook gravel.

“Much of of our practice is drawn from a historical approach that has long been associated with quality. This knowledge was initially gifted in one way or another.” Robert Walters

The vines have been planted to a high density of mostly between 12,000 and 33,000 vines per hectare, with almost 45,000 vines over 3.1 hectares. No synthetic chemicals are used and the practice is adapted to these very high densities. It is certainly a different, much more labour-intensive and expensive approach, with more than one full-time person per hectare required in the vines.

Together with the Estate wines, Place of Changing Winds also produces some Syrah from the Heathcote region (about 130km north of the cellars) and some Syrah and Marsanne from the Harcourt area (from cooler granitic soils closer to Bullengarook). The team works closely with growers at both sites. These plots are managed organically (not certified) and to full POCW specifications. The approach has always been to produce reds of great finesse and drinkability—Syrah for Pinot lovers!

Place of Changing Winds was awarded the 2021 New Vineyard of the Year by the Young Gun of Wine Awards, and Best New Winery of the Year 2022 by the Halliday Wine Companion Awards.

The Range

Place of Changing Winds Syrah No.2 2021
Place of Changing Winds Syrah No.2 2021
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Place of Changing Winds Syrah No.2 2021

This wine is a blend of both Heathcote and Harcourt fruit. It has serious intensity, Nebbiolo-like tannins and genuine age-worthiness. It was matured in a range of wood (mostly neutral) and concrete vessels for 16 months, before resting in steel tank for six months prior to bottling in late February 2023. It really benefits from plenty of air at this stage in its life, so we encourage drinkers to decant it as early as they can. It gets better and better.

“A blend of Heathcote and Harcourt fruit, brought to life in mostly old oak and concrete for 16 months, then to stainless before bottling. It’s 70% whole bunch or so. While juicy and thick set it has a good deal of fruit, spice and herbal information, both perfume and palate does dark cherry, choc-mint, sage leaf, blood orange – with fine, firm, al dente tannin in the vein of nerello mascalese or similar. It’s a brooding and deep red, chewy and potent but with levity on its side. Charming in the moodier frame.”
93 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
“Good depth of red with a purple tint, and aromas of black berries, subtle herbs and spices, with a floral/violet note and a trace of iodine; the palate is full and rounded, with liberal drying tannins, the medicinal herbs chiming in again towards the finish and adding a cleansing note of bitterness. This should well reward a few years in the cellar.”
93 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
“Deep crimson. Definitely Syrah not Shiraz on the nose – fragrant and positively racy. Bitter redcurrant fruit on the palate and lots of character. Hint of treacle and then a bonedry finish. Even without decanting this wine was pretty charming and expressive. Not too intense but well balanced and already accessible.”
16.5 points, 16.5 points, jancisrobinson.com
"The 2021 Harcourt and the Syrah No 2 wines are tasted side by side here today, and the context is incredibly useful in determining their similarities and differences. Firstly, these are both classy wines. Elegant, complex, spicy and seamlessly constructed, they are both a pleasure to drink. Structurally, and flavor wise, they are very different. Here, in the 2021 Syrah No 2, the tannins are far more grippy and pronounced. As a tannin lover, this is no problem for me. They are savory and lend weight and gravitas to the fruit. The fruit flavors that course across the tongue are darker, denser and less mineral than those in the Harcourt Syrah. This has notes of blood plum, cocoa, sweet tobacco, mulberry and blackberry. The aromas include a distinct sense of crunchy/crackling autumn leaves underfoot. This is an evocative wine—very smart. "
93 points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Place of Changing Winds Syrah No.2 2021
Place of Changing Winds Syrah No.2 2021
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Place of Changing Winds Harcourt Syrah 2021
Place of Changing Winds Harcourt Syrah 2021
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Place of Changing Winds Harcourt Syrah 2021

This is the first Place of Changing Winds release from the soils and climate of Harcourt North in the Bendigo G.I. With its pure, sandy, granite soils and its mild climate, this specific place stands apart from the rest of Bendigo. It’s a vineyard that can grow wines of tremendous perfume and finesse, even if the 2021 is a deeper and more structured release, reflecting the season. The wine underwent almost two years of maturation: one year in neutral wood (barrique through to 1000-litre) and one year in an unlined concrete tank. Bottling was in late February 2023. The result is a wonderfully perfumed, yet layered Syrah with blackcurrant fruit, anise, bay leaf and thyme notes and a super-long, lingering finish. It reminds us of a top Morgon.

The result is a wonderfully perfumed, yet layered Syrah with blackcurrant fruit, anise, bay leaf and thyme notes and a super-long, lingering finish. It reminds us of a top Morgon.

“Deep red with a tinge of purple and a bouquet that is highly perfumed and emphasising floral/violet and fresh-herb aromas, brooding spices too, while the palate is very full bodied and concentrated, deep and firm, framed in robust tannins. A big strong wine with terrific structure for ageing, the plush fruit balanced perfectly by serious tannins. Impressive shiraz.” (#1 out of 73, 2021 Shiraz from Victoria)
96 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
“Very floral in the perfume, violets and lavender, whiffs of eucalyptus and loads of raspberry, cherry and strawberry, in a fog of scent too. Lots of concentration to taste but with a glossy wash of acidity under the tart red cherry, game meat, dried herbs and white pepper characters. Beautiful flavours, fine, satiny tannins, great extension of flavour, a cool, minty finish. Spot on medium weight fragrant and spicy style.”
94 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
"Mid crimson with a pale rim. Very much Syrah rather than Gamay on the nose but there is a combination of juiciness and crispness on the palate that could indeed be a cru beaujolais. Serious, rewarding wine that’s not reminiscent of the northern Rhône but is a very valid, satisfying drink. Medium persistence. Very pure fruit. A hint of liquorice.”
16.5 points, 16.5 points, jancisrobinson.com
"On the nose, there is Earl Grey tea, lavender, crushed rocks, wafts of bergamot, raspberry, star anise and cracked fennel seeds. In the mouth, the wine is deeper and more seductive than the aromas suggest, tailing out over a long, lingering finish. There is a "quiet" note to this wine, pleasurable like ASMR. The tannins are gritty and black, chewy and succulent. This is very fine, and it will silk out further over time."
95+ points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Place of Changing Winds Harcourt Syrah 2021
Place of Changing Winds Harcourt Syrah 2021
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Place Of Changing Winds Annus Horribilis 2020
Place Of Changing Winds Annus Horribilis 2020
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Place Of Changing Winds Annus Horribilis 2020

Everyone will have a story to tell about the year 2020. Some will be far worse than others. A year already challenging enough for the team at Place of Changing Winds was made even worse when a terrible frost wiped out something like three-quarters of their Pinot Noir and 100% of their Chardonnay. In Rob’s words, “In the context of a global pandemic, I don’t want to overstate things, but it hurt us badly. The 2019 harvest had been our first vintage release, and we had been so excited to see what 2020 would bring. Mother Nature broke our hearts (and almost broke the bank).” On the spring night of October 1st, with budburst just beginning, the temperature plummeted to below -3°C at about midnight, and it stayed there for six hours. It was a freak frost. Despite the team’s best efforts—running the frost fans and lighting fires—pretty much all the buds and any young growth was destroyed, and with them went the crop. In the end, the battered POCW Pinot vines produced a minuscule 50 grams of fruit per vine on average, from 28,000 productive vines. The result was barely enough fruit to produce 100 dozen bottles of wine. So, there is only a single Place of Changing Winds Pinot Noir released from the 2020 vintage. While the name of the wine, Annus Horribilis—the Latin for a year of disaster or misfortune—describes the season well, the wine is anything but. Instead, we think it is rather beautiful. But it’s a very particular style that this vineyard may never make again. Therefore, Rob and Remi have decided to bottle the wine under a one-off label. If you like pretty, perfumed yet structured Pinots, then you should enjoy this. It’s fine-boned, light bodied, powdery, very delicate and yet savoury. It will likely age well, as the balance is there. But it will also drink well young. Of course, you can drink it when you want to. If you open a bottle now, or at five or 10 years, and you love it then, well, we suppose there is no reason to wait any longer.

So, there is only a single Place of Changing Winds Pinot Noir released from the 2020 vintage. While the name of the wine, Annus Horribilis—the Latin for a year of disaster or misfortune—describes the season well, the wine is anything but. Instead, we think it is rather beautiful. But it’s a very particular style that this vineyard may never make again. Therefore, Rob and Remi have decided to bottle the wine under a one-off label. If you like pretty, perfumed yet structured Pinots, then you should enjoy this. It’s fine-boned, light bodied, powdery, very delicate and yet savoury. It will likely age well, as the balance is there. But it will also drink well young. Of course, you can drink it when you want to. If you open a bottle now, or at five or 10 years, and you love it then, well, we suppose there is no reason to wait any longer.

Place Of Changing Winds Annus Horribilis 2020
Place Of Changing Winds Annus Horribilis 2020
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Place Of Changing Winds Heathcote Syrah 2019
Place Of Changing Winds Heathcote Syrah 2019
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Place Of Changing Winds Heathcote Syrah 2019

2019 was a warm, dry and fast-ripening vintage. It was a relatively easy year where the only critical decision for the team was getting the picking date right. The ferments were full of energy and flew through without incident. The Syrah was fermented naturally with varying levels of crushing and time on skins, including some full carbonic. The logic was to use whole berry and whole bunch fermentation to bring perfume and finesse to the natural power of Heathcote. Fermentation was in stainless and concrete tank and the aging was mostly in large, neutral oak (Stockinger), and some older barriques (from a range of coopers). Neither this Syrah nor the 2019 Marsanne was fined or filtered, and SO₂ was kept to a minimum.The wine speaks for itself—it’s bright and juicy with good depth and excellent freshness. Jamie Goode’s note captures it well enough.

The wine speaks for itself—it’s bright and juicy with good depth and excellent freshness. Jamie Goode’s note captures it well enough.

"It’s an incredibly fresh wine, both in style and in presentation. It’s juicy and refreshing, and for that alone it feels very different to the Heathcote norm. Intricate, lacy, fine-grained, grapey; all these words apply. Cherry, plum, sultana and boysenberry are all evident, as is earth, sweet spice, tobacco, meat and stem. It’s a wine with many positive but its best aspect is its finish, which curls out like smoke rising from an intensely defined source. We’re in good days now but better days yet are ahead. This is an elegant, intricate, filigreed delight."
94 points, Campbell Mattinson, Winefront
“There’s an amazing elegance to the palate, which is soft and smooth, without being jammy. It’s a ripe, luxurious wine showing great promise, with a hint of meat and pepper savouriness alongside the ripe fruit. There’s a sleek ripe side to the wine but also some good definition and focus. Very fine, doing a really difficult job of balancing ripeness and freshness really well.”
94 points, Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak
"Deep purple/red brilliant colour, with a powerfully spicy bouquet that recalls pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and red and blue berry fruits beneath. The wine is elegantly framed and medium to full-bodied, with supple, balanced tannins and easy accessibility despite its youth. Plum stones on the finish. A shiraz in a more Rhône-like, un-Australian cast. It's different—and appealingly so.
93 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
"Deep purple/red brilliant colour, with a powerfully spicy bouquet that recalls pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and red and blue berry fruits beneath. The wine is elegantly framed and medium to full-bodied, with supple, balanced tannins and easy accessibility despite its youth. Plum stones on the finish. A shiraz in a more Rhône-like, un-Australian cast. It's different—and appealingly so.
93 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
Place Of Changing Winds Heathcote Syrah 2019
Place Of Changing Winds Heathcote Syrah 2019
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“Place of Changing Winds – the place and the vineyard – may well be the most exciting ‘new’ development in Australian wine. It will jump straight on to elite lists of Australian wine producers. You could describe this endeavour in one word: uncompromised.” Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Macedon Ranges, Victoria

People

Owner: Robert Walters

Manager: Rémi Jacquemain

Key staff: Lachlan McCallum, Romuald Cacheux

Availability

National

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