Grapes of Mirth arrives in Seppeltsfield in the Barossa for a two-day festival of laughter, drink and associated revelry. Comedian Merrick Watts explains what to expect.
As one of the founders and directors of Grapes of Mirth, comedian Merrick Watts is involved in the festival’s programming. That goes a long way to explaining the stellar lineup of Aussie comedians scheduled for the two-day event, but questions remain over the inclusion of a stepping G&T gentleman.
“When they asked me about it, they said, ‘Oh, there’s this Mr. G&T. Do you think we should do it for the festival? And I said, ‘100% we should!’ recalls Merrick, who had no idea what it was and still remains ignorant of its function.
“Let’s get this straight, everyone: I don’t need to know anything to say yes,” he said happily.
Hence, the gentleman will be seated alongside an eclectic mix of activities dotting the Seppeltsfield Estate grounds for this unique festival. These include wine tastings, a nail bar, live podcasts, cooking, music and, in the words of the organizers, the largest wine list ever seen in a comedy show.
Holding Grapes of Mirth for two days allows for an incredibly diverse offering of comedic talent to suit all tastes and demographics. “When we look at our line-up…we don’t book the same kind of voice or people who work in the same territory,” Merrick explains.
Saturday’s list features Rhys Nicholson, Melanie Bracewell, Peter Helliar, Colin Lane, Chris Ryan, Dane Simpson, Zoë Coombs Marr and more. MasterChef Australia’s Melissa Leong will judge the comedians’ cooking skills, and there will be live podcast recordings in the Rode Vintage Cellar, including The Chaser Report and Myf Warhurst and Zan Row’s hit show, Bang On.
Sunday will see Judith Lucy, Tom Gleeson, Nazeem Hussain, Geraldine Hickey, Dave Thornton and more take to the main stage. Ivan Aristeguieta will also bring his online About that on stage for the first time, with Merrick as co-host.
Merrick says the bill is made possible by the whole winery experience.
“I think comedians and performers really like what we’re doing with Grapes of Mirth,” he says. “It’s a bit like being with your own group of friends in a cellar, drinking wine and having a good time.
“It’s a similar experience for the audience and the performers. That’s why we can access such great headliners – because people really love doing the show. »
The wine experience will be featured by the Dean of Wine Mike Bennie, a friend of Merrick’s who Sam Neil once described as “a cross between Michael Broadbent and John Belushi”. His cocktails of death The Sunday segment is an invitation to the brave and the curious.
Sommelier Josh Pickens will also lead tastings with local winemakers.
“That’s something we’ve taken note of – making sure that [festivalgoers with] an interest in wine will have people they can talk to on the spot almost anytime to satisfy their interests,” says Merrick.
As a WSET qualified sommelier, Merrick knows a lot about wine himself and is happy to recommend a bottle to anyone who asks.
“You know, you’re talking to someone who managed to fail Grade 11 twice. So clearly, I don’t like to study. But yes, I like to have knowledge in what I like,” he says.
His development has also been driven by respect for the people in the wine industry he meets through Grapes of Mirth.
“I want them to know that I fundamentally respect the amount of work they do. [and] how it’s done and the nuances of it,” he says.
Grapes of Mirth has been held as a one-day event across Australia’s major wine regions since 2017. Last year they switched to a two-day format for Barossa but COVID has meant it has been canceled. It turned out to be a positive – the extra time leading up to this year’s event allowed it to scale significantly.
“It’s a lot bigger and more rounded,” Merrick says before slipping reassuringly into the vernacular. “The canceled event was going to be good. But it’s much better.
He says the philosophy behind comedy and wine events is to bring people to wine.
“If people want to learn, so much the better. If they don’t want to learn, we don’t care. We just want people to find out how good Australian wine is and how much we have in this country,” he says.
“The other thing is that comedy and wine make such a great pair. They both share experiences… You share a laugh and you share a bottle of wine.
“They work perfectly, unlike comedy, Red Bull and vodka. But Red Bull and vodka and going to a rave? Sure, that works for you, no problem.
This fits perfectly into the musical component of the festival. “We like to fill in the whole day and make it an experience rather than just watching comedy sets,” says Merrick. This includes sets from Adelaide singer-songwriter Stellie on Saturday and ARIA nominated singer Odette on Sunday.
DJ Pedro Moshman also hosts nightly sessions every day where “people can dance, let their hair down, and toss it a bit.”
Merrick isn’t averse to taking over the turntables either.
“There will be some kind of DJ battle at the end, and I can honestly say [it’s] going to get ruthless,” he said. “It’s like the hunger games, for the youngest. These are the Hunger Games of DJing.
Grapes of Mirth is an 18+ event. Buses will run between Seppeltsfield and Adelaide, Gawler, Angaston and Lyndoch. Buy a seat on the bus when you purchase your ticket.