2020 Place Of Changing Winds Annus Horribilis Pinot Noir

The Collective Review

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

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Technical Attributes
Tasting Notes

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.

Winemakers Note

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.


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.

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