In 2004 Robert Walters founded Bibendum, one of the major wine distribution companies in Australia. Its portfolio is split between domestic and imported brands, all of the latter exclusive. All of the best regions of France (other than Bordeaux) are represented, as are the other European countries from Portugal to Austria.
Walters has been responsible for building of a portfolio of artisanal producers on his four-to 12-week annual trips to Europe, and face-to-face discussions with the winemakers/proprietors. Walking in a vineyard, inhaling the aromas of ferments and of wines maturing in barrel are unique experiences that surpass any amount of reading about and drinking wine.
He has distilled all his experiences into his parallel hands-on journey with Place of Changing Winds, a truly unique 2.7 ha vineyard in Victoria that he planted in 2012-13, making the first commercial vintage in 2019. The name is the translation of Warekilla, the Wurundjeri word for place of changing winds, reflecting its situation between Mount Macedon and Mount Bullengarook, surrounded by forest at an elevation of 500 metres.The soil is very poor, with variations across the site with more or less rock, more or less lay and silt, more of less sand, and varying levels of top soil. The vines (70% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay) have planting densities at 12, 14, 20, 25 and 33 thousand vines per hectare, the bunches tiny, the yield per vine 200-300 grams.
Much of the viticulture is by hand and foot, the 700kg Dinky Toy caterpillar tractor used in the lower density plantings, (2000 vines per hectare is normally regarded as close planted). Each vine is visually examined 10 times in the course of the growing season, with endless canopy work, shoot thinning, hand positioning, and lateral removal, There is no hedging of shoots and canes, plaiting taking the place of cutting on the high canopy.
All of the endless vineyard work is done by Walters and a permanent staff of three, crowding angels on little more than a pinhead.
2019 Place of Changing Winds Between Two Mountains
Bright crimson-purple. Full-bodied and powerful, yet it’s not obvious. The family blackberry base has juicy/spicy highlights, the tannins woven through the fruit and oak. Tasted not long after bottling, but makes light of it. Three of seven barriques declassified. For release ’22. From parcels planted at 12 000 and 14 500 vines per ha, clones MV6, 777 and 667, wild-fermented with 50% whole bunches. Cleverly constituted, with lifted, fresh purple fruits, immaculate balance and harmony, the finish long and persistent. Ready when you are. 1321 bottles made.
95 points, drink to 2029, 12.5% alc, cork, $60
2019 Place of Changing Winds Clos de la Connerie
Planting density 14 000 vines per hectare. Excellent depth to its crimson hue; the fragrant bouquet has a blend of dark cherry and plum fruit, the intense mouthfeel silky and supple. 33% whole bunch shows its hand, just enough to add complexity. All class. 1173 bottles made.
96 points, drink to 2032, 12.5% alc, cork, $85
2019 Place of Changing Winds High Density
From vines planted at 20 000 and 33000 vines/ha. Another dimension altogether, with utterly exceptional intensity and focus, line, length and balance all there. Despite its power, it’s feline in its balance, promising a 20+-year future. Its length impresses more every time you return. Glorious wine.
99 points, drink to 2039, 12.5% alc, cork, $130