Posted on by Stew Went

I don’t think I’m alone in stating Passing Clouds served as the initial foray into proper decent wine from Bendigo. The winery embodied an uncompromising spirit with respect to viticulture, such as a very tight rein on irrigation (forcing the vines to fend for themselves early in life) and organic principles, both of which still serve the winery well to this day. The wines? Deeply flavoured, dry, sometimes rustic and always classic in their make-up.

What some of you might recall is that the Leith Family made the tough decision to relocate from Bendigo to Daylesford (Macedon Ranges) some 20 years ago following years of drought conditions and rising salinity levels, which in turn put a significant question mark of over the viability of the vineyards.

The establishment of the Musk vineyard at 742m in 1998 marked quite a turn in direction for Passing Clouds which has seen a transformation of a gutsy red wine specialist to a now-expert in the production of elegant yet intense Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from some of the coolest and highest vineyard sites in the country. Don’t fear – the core of the Bendio range has been retained but the Burgundian offerings really are quite something else. A chance tasting at the winery several weeks ago compelled me to elevate a Passing Clouds offer to the top of the newsletter queue and in particular I was blown away by the ‘Estate’ Chardonnay from 2019. Simply the best Chardonnay I’ve tried in the past 2 years and the best wine I’ve tried from the Macedon Ranges GI.

‘Estate’ Chardonnay 2019 $47.00 / $42.30 in a 6-pack

Stunning wine; best Chardonnay I’ve tried in a least 2 years!

50% new French oak but you’d never know. The smartest of smart rich fruit with mineral veins. Expertly hung together. In the winery’s view the best white wine they have made (so far!). For me the standout Chardonnay I have tried of the past 2 years and, probably, the best Macedon Ranges wine I have very tasted!

"It has some verve yet is luscious and inviting. Rich, Ripe stone fruit and ginger spice, clotted cream and honey with tangy acidity. Lots going on and a lot to like." 93pts - Jane Faulkner - Wine Companion

‘Estate’ Pinot Noir $47.00 / $42.30 in a 6-pack

More fruit weight than the other Pinot Noir offerings and the oak, whilst supportive, is more noticeable through the palate.. Super balanced and no rough edges from the acid. Early days for this drop and the sour fruits / spice are beginning to poke through. It will be very good with a few years in the cellar. Site selection really singing here.

"Deep red/purple, impressive colour for a young pinot. Deep rich, red and dark cherry aromas, spicy and herby, screams pinot noir and is all about fruit, not artifact. Pot pourri; a hint of clove. Complex and not easily described. The palate is full and rich, generous and rounded - lots of ripe, soft, rounded tannins. A superb young pinot that has what it takes to develop beautifully with age." 95pts - Huon Hooke - The Real Review

'Elevation’ Pinot Noir 2017 $83.00 / $74.70 in a 6-pack

Passing Cloud’s top wine and only released when vintage conditions permit (note no 2018 or 2020). Balance to burn; very understated at the moment save for some sour fruits but really needs to open up. One for the cellar. A reserve selection in the true sense with the fruit coming exclusively from the top 3 rows of the vineyard. Hand sorted fruit and vinified separately.

'Graeme’s Blend' Shiraz Cabernet 2019 $32.00 / $28.80 in a 6-Pack

A 60/40 Cabernet/Shiraz blend from the Serpentine and Axedale Vineyards near Bendigo. Balanced! Spicy fruits, slimy smooth, a touch of BDX-like game. Will be long-lived and possesses a supremely sensible fruit profile for a 15% wine.


'Bendigo' Shiraz 2019 $32.00 / $28.80 in a 6-Pack

Juicy with a core of darker fruit. Great layers of spice. Hard to believe it’s 14.8%. Have I mentioned balance? Unreal how calm these Bendigo reds are for the 2019 vintage. 100% sourced from the 23yr old Axedale Vineyard just south of Bendigo.

"Smells of the Aussie bush with its eucalypt and paperbark aromas – not too much, just enough for enjoyment and a desire to be in such a location. Enmeshed within are flavours of red plums, baking spices and gritty tannins. A good drink in anyone’s book." 93pts - Jane Faulkner - Wine Companion

'The Angel' Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 $53.00 / $47.70 in a 6-Pack

Historically known as ‘Angel’s Blend’ reflecting a Cabernet mix but now produced as a 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. A selection of the best Cab Sav barrels from the vintage and no more than 500 cases produced. Juicy fruits combine with a spike of supportive acid late in the palate. Will be the longest living wine of the current Passing Clouds releases and is without doubt in the top handful of Bendigo Cabernet-based wines.