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Life

The way to travel in 2016

When cruise ships parade into the harbours of the world and get fanfare normally reserved for royalty, you know that cruising is more than back in fashion – it is the way to travel, today’s ‘jet set’ are now called the ‘cruise crew’.

Three of the key factors for cruising’s amazing resurgence are: the incredible facilities on board today’s modern ships; the wondrously varied on-shore excursions; and phenomenal range of never-before-visited destinations. And things are only going to get better in 2016.

The modern cruise ship is light years from the behemoths that sailed the waterways of years gone by. These days, there are more boutique-style ships catering from 680 - 1,250 guests – consequently, there is a heightened sense of intimacy and a personalised holiday experience. Staff and crew attend to your every whim and remember your individual preferences, there are no lines, going ashore and returning on board takes minutes rather than hours, and life just seems to proceed at a more relaxed pace.

Facilities and entertainment have been described as a floating five-star hotel crossed with the best of a theatre district. Everything from bespoke spa services to English-style libraries, a live pianist, classical string quartet, dynamic vocalists and spectacular headliners. You may also wish to try your luck in an elegant Monte Carlo-style casino. Some cruises even have guest lecturers who might be historians, naturalists or former ambassadors, eager to share insider knowledge.

Guests’ suites are a personal sanctuary with state-of-the-art custom-made furnishings such as plush ‘Tranquility Beds’ with1,000-thread-count linen, lavish marble-infused grand baths (with a private half-bath for guests), showers, luxurious sitting rooms and private teak verandas. Guests are even given their own range of fine Bvlgari bath amenities^.

On-board dining has really stepped up. Celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pépin are providing signature dishes at a range of dining options from French bistro, gourmet Italian, contemporary Asian, French country cuisine, American steakhouses and more and matched with wine lists to rival any Michelin-starred restaurants.

ADVENTURES ASHORE

One of the major highlights of today’s cruising adventures are the amazing off shore activities, and if you are a lover of food + wine, there are some tantalising travels waiting to be had.

Imagine docking in Monte Carlo and then trekking into the countryside to discover the culinary treasures of Provence on a three-night stay at the Château de Berne. Help prepare a traditional Provençal lunch at the château using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the chef’s gardens, learn about local olive oil production and embark on a tasting and tour of a private wine cellar.

Or how about cruising into Rome (Civitavecchia), and then enjoying a three-night stay in Tuscany, including a hands-on cooking class at Villa Pandolfini and a walking tour of Florence’s legendary attractions such as Michelangelo’s David and Ponte Vecchio.

When ships moor at Athens, guests can visit an open-air Greek market and sample locally made cheese and olives then learn how to prepare traditional Greek dishes alongside a top Greek chef. Top that off with wine and ouzo tastings and a food and wine pairing lunch at revered Varoulko, home to Greece’s top-awarded Michelin star chef.

NEW DESTINATIONS, NEW MEMORIES

Of course, with significant advances in cruise ship technology and the smaller boutique style of ships, there are new ports of call becoming available to guests who are seeking new adventures. In 2016, these include such enviable destinations as: La Paz, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Bandol, France, Porto Santo, Italy, Trieste, Italy; Vlissingen, Netherlands; Helsingborg, Sweden; Catalina Island, California; Gaspé, Quebec; and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, just to name a few.

Yes, the world of cruising has come a long way. Luxurious, intimate and engaging, there are exotic culinary adventures and fantastic new discoveries waiting for you to explore.

To find out more details about some of these great cruises visit Oceania Cruises.

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Life
California Dreaming
Words by Paul Diamond on 27 Jun 2017
No longer just the domain of superstars of the screen, Los Angeles is adding some new leading lights to its food and wine scene. As the second most populated city in America, Los Angeles is often the entry point for Australians wanting to explore the home of the brave. For food and wine lovers, the City of Angels is often a pit stop on the way to the urbane dining rooms of San Francisco with the perception being that fine  food and wine play second fiddle to the lure of Hollywood. But things have recently changed, and LA’s food and drink scene now dazzles as much as any movie star. So it’s well worth spending a few days exploring the refreshed food culture; from the high end down, there’s plenty to taste. But first some advice. If you want to check out the celebrity haunts or local favourites like Venice at sunset, you’ll need to hire a car. Because while getting your head around driving on the right after 15+ hours on a plane can be daunting, the public transport is even more so. But once you’ve secured some wheels, avoid the 405 anywhere near the morning and afternoon peaks, otherwise you’ll find yourself in the granddaddy of all traffic jams and LA drivers take no prisoners. For those really wanting to experience the LA bubble, look no further than Beverly Hills. Originally built as a farming ranch, the Hills became its own city at the beginning of the first World War. When compared to the rest of Los Angeles, it’s like Beverly Hills has its own atmosphere and it’s easy to see why the rich and famous choose 90210 as their postcode. Low Key Luxury
For accommodation, it’s hard to beat the  Montage Beverly Hills  . Situated in the middle of the ‘golden triangle’ – the city blocks wedged between the borders of North Santa Monica Boulevard, Wilshire Boulevard and North Rexford Drive – the Montage is classically elegant, but refreshingly understated, and while it promotes low key luxury, everyone gets treated like a millionaire. If you want to shake off the jet-lag and unwind, the Montage has draped cabanas by the rooftop pool overlooking the city – a great way to get some peaceful perspective. Inside, the lavishly tiled Grecian atrium features a mineral ‘wellness’ pool and a swathe of spa choices. As for food, the Montage’s main restaurant,  Georgie  , really helps sets this hotel apart. One of a chain of national restaurants, Georgie was built by New York chef, cookbook author, TV personality and American Iron Chef winner,  Geoffrey Zakarian . The restaurant is Geoffrey’s ode to his son, and while the food reflects his classical French training, it also acknowledges America’s many cultural influences. Geoffrey blends and melds Italian, South American, French, German Asian and Middle Eastern touches with quality local ingredients and the result is a refreshing and balanced range of choices, executed with a light touch. Wine-lovers have plenty to choose from too with over 800 drops from all around the world on offer, and at more affordable prices than we could access in Australia. Their ‘by the glass’ Coravin menu is a great place to start with Coravin being a gadget that allows wine to be extracted from the bottle without opening it. This means air can’t get in and spoil the remainder, giving restaurants an economic means to offer wines by the glass that are normally only available by the bottle. Wine and Cheese If you are thirsty for more wine, head north a couple of blocks up North Canon Drive to  Wally’s Beverly Hills Vinoteca  . Wally’s is part wine library, part wine bar, part bottle shop, offering an astounding range of wine from all over the world. It’s a wine lover’s paradise where you can browse thousands of wines, buy a bottle and take it home, or have someone open your choice to enjoy with the great range of food, cheese or charcuterie. Speaking of cheese, a quick stroll will get you to  The Cheese Store on North Beverly Drive  . Norbert Wabnig has been behind the counter since the late 70s and his passion for cheese is displayed in every nook and cranny of this gourmet haven. Shop Till You're Broke
If $10k handbags and Ferraris appeal, then a walk along Rodeo Drive will have you wide eyed. Considered one of the most exclusive shopping strips in the world, Rodeo Drive is where all the stars go. Giorgio, Valentino and Tiffany keep Versace company alongside a well-heeled Jimmy Choo. But when you’re all shopped out and in need of more wine, a day trip to Santa Barbara is a must. Head north up the 101 past Oxnard and Ventura and you will soon find yourself in the downtown area of this relaxed Spanish-style town nestled underneath the dramatic Santa Ynez Mountains. Regarded as the American Riviera, Santa Barbera has a Mediterranean climate that makes the production of a wide range of wine varieties possible. Most of the vineyards, wineries and cellar doors are located up in the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez Valleys to the north, however, there’s a cluster of great cellar doors in the heart of Santa Barbara. The  Urban Wine Train  boasts 29 cellar doors where you can taste an impressive range of varieties and styles. From classic Euro-style Shiraz and Cabernet to new world Chardonnay and Pinot, rustic Tempranillos and Italian varietals of every shape and style. Santa Barbara’s wine offering is expansive and when you experience its warmth and hospitality, you’ll wish you had more time. Aussies Doing Us Proud
Back south in LA, try to get a booking at  Maude  and see how Curtis Stone is getting on after winning  LA Weekly’s Best Restaurant in LA in 2015  . With an intimate 24 seats, Maude offers a ten-course  chef’s tasting menu that features a different seasonal ingredient every month. From limes in January to truffles in December, it’s an innovative approach that’s seen the culinary team create over 1000 dishes so far. Read our recent interview with Curtis Stone. Another Australian flying high is Louis Tikaram, the former chef at  Sydney’s Longrain  who’s doing great things with Thai flavours at  EP Asian Eating House  in West Hollywood. With talent like this on offer, Los Angeles is now pumping with vibrant energy and flavour. The over stacked plates of classic Americana and tired European staples of the past have been replaced with exciting and accessible food styles and flavours that reflect the diversity of modern Los Angeles. So while the movie stars of Hollywood might be carefully watching their waists, a trip to modern LA will have you expanding yours.    
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  
Life
Foodie vs Wine-Lovers' guide to the Indian Pacific
Words by Meghan Londeragan @citizensoftheworld on 10 Apr 2017
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 website ,  request a brochure  or  sign up to All Aboard .
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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