Be amazed by a tour of the tunnels under Seppelts Winery, Victoria.

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For a fascinating pitstop on the way to the Grampians National Park, don’t miss Seppelt’s in Great Western. Words by Danielle Norton.

Underneath the winery lies a network of drives, three kilometres long, similar to the mining tunnels that the area is known for.

The property was built, and the vineyard planted, in 1865 by Joseph and Henry Best, brothers who came to Great Western following the goldrush. When digging the foundations for the building, they discovered that the ground was made of soft granite so they created a cellar which maintains a temperature of 15 – 16 degrees.

In 1888, Hans Irvine, an astute businessman, bought the winery. “Hans knew nothing about wine,” says our guide Linda. “But he set about employing people who did.” Irvine had a dream that he would make Australia’s first champagne so he employed Charles Perlot, a French champagne maker from the house of Pommery in France. Perlot discovered that the varieties of grapes needed for him to make champagne were not grown in Australia. “So he used his knowledge and his expertise and he worked with the red wine grapes and made the world’s first sparkling shiraz,” Linda says proudly.

Irvine was known to socialise with the elite of society. He met Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, at a party and she declared that she wanted to bathe in champagne. Irvine, thinking about the great publicity this stunt would bring his winery, had his staff pour her a bath using 152 bottles of the sparkling wine. Dame Nellie dipped in her toe, exclaimed that it was too cold and refused to get in! Legend has it that Irvine rebottled the wine, relabelled it and sold it.

When Irvine retired in 1918 he sold to the Seppelt family, German immigrants who were award winning Barossa winemakers. Several generations of the Seppelt family ran both wineries, adding more drives underneath the property as the business grew.

The ‘drives’ tour offers an intriguing history of the winery. Although they are no longer used to store great quantities of wine they are still functional. Precious bottles from vintage years are stored in private bins; alcoves secured by ornate metal gates.

The tunnels are now operating as venues for opulent, intimate candlelit dining with fine food paired with exquisite Seppelts wine. ‘Deep Dine in the Drives’ experiences can cater specifically for each group’s desires.

Boho and Bubbles events, also featuring Seppelts wine and an array of grazing platters, are held on the expansive lawns overlooking the vineyards.

While weddings are often held in the grand barrel room, more events are coming. Recently Australian blues and roots band, The Audreys, played here, and jazz evenings are becoming regular on the calendar.

Wine tasting is included as part of the tour.