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Life

Foodie vs Wine-Lovers' guide to the Indian Pacific

The Off Train Excursions of the Indian Pacific will split your tastebuds on whether they’d prefer to gorge on rich chocolate fondant frogs, or while away the afternoon with a glass of Barossa Shiraz.

Life is full of decisions and, let’s be honest, if the hardest part of your day is deciding what type of gourmet treat to feast on, then it’s pretty clear you’re having a great holiday. 

This is one of the ‘tough’ choices you’ll need to make onboard the Indian Pacific. One of the great train journeys of the world, traversing Australia from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific (or vice versa), the Indian Pacific not only offers a unique travelling experience, but also myriad off-train excursions to delight  every gourmand and wine connoisseur.

TIME FOR WINE

When touring the Barossa Valley with the Indian Pacific, you’ll get the best of both the winemaking and natural wonders of this unique destination. Famous for its full-bodied wines, it’s a place where nourishing red soil meets lush green hillsides that softly roll on the horizon and it’s genuinely so beautiful you’ll feel like an afternoon spent staring upon its landscape is like refuelling the soul.

Disembarking from the train at Two Wells, you’re transported by air-conditioned coach to the heart of the Barossa and the iconic Seppeltsfield winery, whose long, rising driveway lined with towering palm trees welcomes you to its illustrious cellars.

Here you’ll be given a private tasting inside the 1900 Bottling Hall that housed the very first blends ever created by the Seppelt family and enjoy their famous wine and canapé tasting – think Grenache matched with soft cheese and onion jam, and Vermentino paired with sugar cured salmon with mustard dressing.

Seppeltsfield is famed for having the longest continual vintages of Tawny Port dating back to 1878 and an absolute must is Seppeltsfield’s Taste Your Birth Year experience, an extra $60 per person, but so unique and so worth it. For the record, 1985 is an excellent drop.

The Indian Pacific team firmly believe there’s always room for more, so when you feel you’ve had your fill of vintage Tawny, you’ll be whisked over to Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery.

Enjoy an exclusive tasting of their award-winning wines at their cellar door before indulging in a three-course dinner of roasted lamb, summer vegetables and chocolate parfait, set inside a renovated concrete wine vat.

CHOCOLATE OR CHEESE

The Adelaide Hills Off Train Excursion leaves Adelaide by coach and winds through the picturesque churches and laneways of the city before climbing up to the forest surrounds. More specifically, to the historic town of Hahndorf, which is one of the oldest surviving German settlements in the country.

Walking the tree-lined streets of this picturesque village is like being transported to a movie set where quaint cafés, bookstores and galleries are the star attractions. You’ll be guided to Chocolate @ No.5, a tiny house that holds a veritable treasure trove of sweet treats that you can taste almost completely at your leisure. 

Owned by cocoa expert Alison Peck and chocolatier Sarina Waterman, these  two ladies seriously love their chocolate. They breathlessly riff on everything from single origin Venezuelan beans all the way to what drives a person to stir melted cocoa all day and night. We guarantee you’ll never look at a supermarket stocked block of chocolate again.

If cheese is more your thing, you can opt to be taken down the road to Udder Delights, which is famous for its softer-than-soft goat’s cheese. Owner and cheesemaker Sheree Sullivan speaks with such reverence for the process that you’ll almost want to pack up your city life and start your own dairy farm. 

The day closes with a stroll down the road to The Haus, a German-inspired restaurant where you’ll dine on all the bockwurst, bratwurst and cheese kranskys your stomach can handle, all matched with wines from the region.

Safe to say that whether you’re a vino fan or a die-hard foodie, there’s something for you on the Indian Pacific – you just have to choose your side. It’s intense. It’s delicious. I wish you the best of luck.

For more details on the Indian Pacific and Off Train Experiences, visit the Great Southern Rail websiterequest a brochure or sign up to All Aboard.

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Wine
Australia's emerging wine regions: making their presence felt!
This Aussie Wine Month we're exploring some of the emerging wine regions across Australia. While they're not as well-known as some of the big guns, Orange, Canberra, Geographe and the Granite Belt are all producing fantastic quality wines. Plus, discover Riverland's new look and new take on alternative varietals.   Orange Located in the central west of NSW, about 280kms west of Sydney, the cool climate region of Orange is producing exceptional Sauvignon Blanc , Chardonnay , Merlot and Pinot Noir , and has winemakers from across the state vying for its premium fruit. Sitting at almost 900m above sea level and with some vineyards climbing to 1100m, Orange is the highest wine region in Australia. It's this altitude coupled with the volcanic soils of Mount Canobolas that make its Sauvignon Blanc so amazing. Of the almost 40 wine producers in the region, nearly all make a Sauvignon Blanc and all have their own style - fresh and fruity, subtle yet complex, pure and minerally, barrel fermented and rich. The region's most common expression of Sauv Blanc is the fresh, intense fruit-driven style. Less herbal, it has a tropical punch with passionfruit being a key flavour. It tends to be a bit fuller with more palate weight, but is still lively. Chardonnay also thrives in Orange's cool climate as does Pinot Noir and Shiraz . The best Pinots are perfumed, earthy and very inviting and that's what you get in Orange - seductive and charming in their youth, they don't need lengthy cellaring. Shiraz performs well across the different elevations - the richer styles come from the lower elevations, while those from higher vineyards are medium-bodied and spicy. Alternative varieties also have a huge future in the region. Look for Sangiovese, Barbera, Vermentino , Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, Zinfandel, Tempranillo , and Barbera. Browse our range of Orange wines    Canberra Although grape growing and winemaking in the Canberra district dates back to the 1840s, production went into a dramatic decline, and it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that the industry was rekindled in the region. Over the last 20 years, there has been growing interest in the region, and the three sub-regions of Bungendore/Lake George, Hall and Murrumbateman are now home to around 110 vineyards with approximately 450 hectares under vine. The Canberra region experiences a strongly continental climate with a high diurnal temperature range (cold nights and hot summer days) and generally a cool harvest season. Some vineyards are planted on near-alpine slopes with cool autumns contributing to elegant cool-climate Shiraz , Pinot Noir , Cabernet , and Riesling , while those on the lower slopes create full-flavoured Chardonnay and Shiraz. A number of alternative varietals are also on the increase with small plantings of Sangiovese , Tempranillo , Malbec, Marsanne, Roussanne, Graciano and Grüner Veltliner producing fantastic quality wines. Browse our range of Canberra wines   Granite Belt Three hours south-west of Brisbane on the southern Darling Downs, the Granite Belt is situated around Queensland's apple capital, Stanthorpe. Surprisingly, its first plantings of grapes date back to 1820 and precedes Victorian and South Australian regions by 15-plus years. While Queensland is usually thought of as having a hot or tropical climate, the Granite Belt has some of Australia's highest altitude vineyards and it's the associated cool climate that is the perfect setting for the region's fine boned, European-style wines. Think medium-bodied, savoury reds with fine tannins and pronounced acidity. In the whites, expect lighter, citrus driven styles with elegant layers and fine acid lines. Adding to the Granite Belt's wine identity is the fact it excels in alternative styles. While you'll certainly find mainstream varieties like Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay, the real excitement comes from discoveries like Fiano, Vermentino, Chenin Blanc, Savagnin, Barbera, Graciano, Durif, Nebbiolo and Tannat. Browse our range of Granite Belt wines here   Geographe Located just two hours south of Perth, this historic region gets its name from French explorer Nicholas Baudin whose boat was called Le Geographe. He chanced upon the area in 1802 and was no doubt impressed by the stunning coastline and rolling hills surrounding. One of Australia's most geographically diverse regions, today Geographe is also one of WA's most exciting emerging regions and home to many diverse styles of wines and boutique wineries creating wines with regional distinction. There are four districts in the region: Harvey, Donnybrook, Capel and Ferguson all with their own unique terroir and topography, but it is the cooling afternoon sea breezes from Geographe Bay that ensure a long stable growing season and that help create the local style of wine. Look for stunning Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, plus alternatives Arneis, Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo. Browse our range of Geographe wines   Riverland A warm climate region, Riverland is located east of the South Australia's Barossa Valley and extends for 330 km along the Murray River from Paringa to Blanchetown. Producing up to 30% of Australia's annual crush, it's the largest wine producing region in Australia and home to 1,000 wine grape growers representing 20,600 hectares of vines. Once known for growing fruit for large scale production, Riverland is now being recognised for turning its talents to exciting and premium alternative varieties like Petit Verdot, Montepulciano, Nero d'Avola, Tempranillo, Fiano, Arneis and Vermentino. Fiano particularly, is giving local winemakers a chance to show they can make exciting, cutting-edge wines. Browse our range of Riverland wines  
Food
What grows together, goes together Wunderbar lamb and Mitchell Family wines.
Words by Paul Diamond on 7 Jan 2018
The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s most underrated wine regions, which is hard to fathom given it produces some of the finest Rieslings and intensely concentrated red wines in the country. No doubt, the pull of the Barossa has a lot to do with the underestimation of the Clare, but, if you can resist the urge to turn right at Gawler and stay on the A32, you’re in for a treat.  In addition to its wine cred, Clare is uniquely beautiful. The open landscape is a sea of wheat fields sprinkled with eucalypts and stone cottages beneath powder blue skies. 
Heinrich’s Wunderbar  You’ll also notice a few sheep along the way, as Clare, like much of Australia, was Merino country. But around 1959 when wool exports declined, families left in droves. One of the few that stuck with it were the Heinrichs of Black Springs and fifth generation Ben, along with his wife, Kerry and five children, continues to farm sheep on the family’s original 810ha property just east of Clare.  But while the sheds, tractors, machinery and utes all make this look like a stock standard farm, one look at the sheep and you realise Ben does things a bit differently to his ancestors.  Practically bald and with long tails, Ben’s sheep are a breed that sheds its wool, chosen as part of his humane, minimal intervention philosophy. This is underpinned by his adherence to the Humane Choice farming principles of which he is the only certified producer in Australia. “With no wool, we can give our sheep a better life, as there’s no mulesing, tail docking, crutching or shearing,” Ben explains. “My sheep are truly free range, paddock raised, no feed lots and we try to minimise human interaction with them as much as possible.” When it comes to conventional industries, sheep farming is close to the top. The practices are well entrenched over generations and traditions are not easy to break, especially when there are mouths to feed.  So why undertake such a radical change? For Ben, it was the knowledge that the ways of the past were not going to work. “Dad was running a self-replacing Merino flock and it wasn’t going so well,” Ben recalls. “Personally, I wasn’t cut out for it, I couldn’t see myself shearing, and Dad saw the writing on the wall. It was either going to be sheep with no wool, or no sheep at all!” So Ben, backed by his dad, started Wunderbar. They’ve since gone from strength to strength, now selling directly to butchers and chefs around the district and into Adelaide. Fans of their meat remark on how tender, flavoursome and lean it is, while chefs love to cook with it. High praise indeed.  A Delicious Seed Word of Ben’s lamb is spreading and one chef that sings Wundebar’s praises is Guy Parkinson, owner of Seed Winehouse +Kitchen in Clare. Guy and his partner, Candice, have run Seed since 2014 after travelling through Clare and deciding it was the place to set up shop. Seed is now a food and wine destination, drawing people from all over to sample Guy’s creative, trattoria-inspired cooking paired with Candice’s take on the Clare wine scene. The couple had been Hunter-based, where they had a significant following of loyal winemaking food lovers, and this pattern has repeated in the Clare. 
The Mitchells Part of the Seed appreciation society are the Mitchells, who run the acclaimed Mitchell Wines. Led by second generation Andrew and Jane, they work with their children, Hilary, Angus and Edwina, to produce beautiful expressions of Watervale Riesling, Semillon, Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache under the Mitchell and McNicol labels.  The Mitchells have been in Clare since 1949 when Andrew’s father purchased land featuring an orchard, a dairy and a small vineyard. Andrew was born and bred on the property and after school, returned to the family business.  “I came back home and thought that making wine was better than working for a living,” he says with a cheeky smile. Most of the wines the Mitchells produce are released with some age, a decision that can be a financial burden. However, as Andrew explains, “The significant thing about the Clare Valley is that it is a region that produces wines with incredible intensity of flavour, but with elegance. We sell some of our wines at 10 years old and the dividend is that people get to see our wines at their best.” The Lunch As a celebration of Wunderbar lamb, Guy devised a menu with an entrée of lamb backstrap poached in extra virgin olive oil, grilled cucumber, mint and whipped yogurt, and a main of roasted rack served on baby carrots cooked in whey and honey, pearl barley and pomegranate.  Andrew and Angus brought along a range of wines to evaluate and see which suited Guy’s food best.  For the entree, Candice chose the 2009 NcNicol Watervale Riesling. It had the age to be a perfect textural match for the silky backstrap, but also fresh acidity to cut through the whipped yoghurt. For the rack, Candice’s call was Andrew’s 2001 Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz. The wine was still dense, but time had softened the mouthfeel, allowing the secondary fruit to sit beautifully with the flesh and the sauce to suit the wonderful, natural intensity of the wine.  As the afternoon progressed, conversation became more relaxed as stories were shared and reflections were made on their beautiful home. Guy Parkinson’s back strap of lamb poached in extra virgin olive oil, grilled baby cucumber, whipped sheep yogurt
Recipe:  Get  Guy Parkinson’s back strap of lamb poached in extra virgin olive oil, grilled baby cucumber, whipped sheep yogurt Wine:  Explore  Mitchell Family Wines Clare Valley:  Discover the fun of cycling the   Clare Valley Riesling Trail
Wine
Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
The Riverina region has undergone a renaissance that’s seeing its established traditions given a fresh makeover. The result is a dynamic food and wine experience presenting local produce with European flair. The Riverina  has long been referred to as Australia’s food bowl. This south western region of New South Wales between Griffith and Wagga Wagga is abundant with citrus and stonefruit, grapes, figs, olives, nuts, lamb, beef, chicken, wheat and rice. What is not so widely known is that there is a shift happening in this rural farming centre. It’s being led by a growing number of innovative chefs, winemakers and growers dedicated to providing new and unique wine, food and agritourism experiences. Dining Out
The wealth of fresh produce available in the Riverina , combined with a strong history of Italian immigration following the World Wars, means there is no shortage of quality places to dine. Chef Luke Piccolo, who owns and runs Griffith’s renowned Limone Dining , cut his teeth at Sydney restaurants Pilu at Freshwater and Pendolino before returning home to Griffith to open his own fine-dining establishment. Luke, who is of Italian heritage, won the Council of Italian Restaurants Australia (CIRA) Young Talent Award in 2013. His nonna, who cooks beautiful rustic Italian food, was the first to show him the ropes in the kitchen. “When he left school, Luke came to help at our family restaurant and we were blown off the planet with what he could do,” his father, Peter reveals. “We were blind to what had been going on for the past decade. Then all of a sudden there he was in the kitchen at 16 years of age with amazing cooking skills, work ethic and creations.” Luke’s nonna taught him about the no waste policy, which you can now see woven into Limone Dining. The place is built almost completely from recycled materials and Luke offers an evolving seasonal menu featuring local produce. Think fresh tagliolini with spring lamb ragu followed by char-grilled quail with pancetta finished off with blood orange almond sponge and lemon custard. For full-blown Italian dining in Griffith, visit Zecca Handmade Italian in the old bank building. Run by returning locals, Ben, Michaela and Daniel, Zecca’s regularly changing chalkboard menu is packed with delicious Italian staples. Their Maltagliati, casarecce and pappardelle pastas are lovingly made by hand each day. Plates of house-made antipasti are packed with olives, salumi and baccala from local Murray cod. Another restaurant not to pass by is Pages on Pine in the main street of Leeton. It is a stalwart of the area, run by French-born chef Eric Pages and his wife Vanessa. They serve up French fare with a creative twist and are huge supporters of local producers, including Coolamon Cheese, Bruceron pork, Riverina  lamb and Randall Organics. They also offer a three-course set menu, matched with Leeton wines from Lillypilly and Toorak. Coolamon Cheese
A nirvana for cheese-lovers has been formed inside an historic 1920s co-op building in the main street of Coolamon. Cheesemaker Barry Lillywhite and his son Anton Green have filled the space with top-of-the-line cheese making facilities, a commercial kitchen, deli and generously sized dining area. All their cheeses are handcrafted on site using just four simple ingredients: local Riverina milk, starter culture, rennet and salt. “By hand-making our cheeses in small batches we can tend to them more closely, watch them mature cheese by cheese and release them to our customers at exactly the right time,” Barry explains. Barry’s signature collection of native Australian-flavoured cheeses pack a punch. Right now he has lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and alpine pepper cheeses on the menu. Other cheeses available include vintage cheddars and oil-infused fettas, blues and runny Bries and Camemberts. His soft cheeses are a far cry from varieties you find in the supermarket. “Our soft cheeses are not stabilised and this is why they are soft and gooey and have a mind of their own,” he explains. “In fact, the only preservative we use in any of our cheeses is salt.” Visitors to Coolamon Cheese can taste test the cheeses or sit down to a cheese-inspired meal from the cafe menu. Here the cheeses are served with a range of gourmet accompaniments like tempura saltbush, cold roast lamb, pickles, onion jam, sticky prunes and balsamic strawberries. Guests are also invited to take a tour of the factory led by one of their cheese makers. “We want visitors to understand where their food comes from and the processes it goes through to get to their plates,” Barry says. Wine a plenty
The Riverina  is home to 20,000 hectares of vines, making it the largest wine producing region in NSW and the second largest in Australia behind Riverland in South Australia. The region is well established, having been pioneered in 1913 by the famous McWilliam family of the Hunter Valley. Riverina wineries are largely family owned with many having Italian heritage including Calabria Family Wines, Mino & Co, Lillypilly Wines and De Bortoli . Some of the families behind these labels actually began making wine out of necessity when they first migrated to Australia, so they could enjoy a glass with their meal as they would have back home in Italy. “At the end of the long working day, my grandfather found he looked forward to a glass of home-made wine,” Elizabeth Calabria of Calabria Family Wines explains. “Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money to invest in all of the necessary equipment to make it, so he took over my grandmother’s laundry tubs and improvised,” she continues. “Soon enough, he was producing wines for the local Europeans who had also made Griffith their home.” Ideal conditions
The Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme, coupled with rich red soils and a warm Mediterranean climate, allows most varieties of grapes to grow well. Although the area was once looked upon as a producer of table wines, successful Italian varieties are fast becoming the star. “What is exciting is what we are learning about alternative varieties, such as Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Vermentino and Pinot Bianco,” chief winemaker at Calabria Family Wines, Emma Norbiato says. “By controlling the yield and the canopy, we are seeing some beautiful fruit and making some exciting wines. “In the next five years, I would like to think we will see more thoughtful viticulture and winemaking in our alternative varieties. Montepulciano , Nero d’Avola , Pinot Bianco are new to our region and haven’t even reached their potential yet.” Vermentino has also been a successful addition to Lillypilly Wines. Their first vintage of the dry Italian white was released in 2015 and went straight on to win the trophy for Best Dry White Varietal at the Perth Royal Wine Show and another gold at the Small Vigneron Awards in Canberra. General manager of Mino & Co, Nick Guglielmino says while Italian wines are not new to Griffith, there is now a higher demand for them. “We are experiencing a time where these varieties are being more accepted by consumers,” he says. “Griffith indeed has a rich history of Italian culture, so it makes sense for us to follow the style of wines we are familiar with, that of Italian authenticity yet grown in Australian conditions similar to that of their origins.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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