With Grapes of Mirth, comedian Merrick Watts brings together two of his passions: comedy and wine.
For someone raised in Melbourne and who lives in Sydney, Watts spends a lot of time in South Australia. He is basically an unofficial ambassador for our state, especially when it comes to our food and wine.
“It’s clear when you go to other regions around the country just how opulent the wine is in South Australia, the varieties and strength of wine are just off the chart,” Watts says. “South Australia takes it for granted – and there is great wine all round Australia – but you are spoilt here.”
Watts’ latest venture is Grapes of Mirth, a wine and comedy events team based out of Adelaide. Like A Day on the Green with laughs, Grapes of Mirth brings together some of the biggest names in Australian comedy to perform at various wineries across the state, with the rest of the country to follow.
“Grapes of Mirth is a combination of two things I genuinely love: comedy and sharing,” Watts says. “When you sit down with friends to have a bottle of wine, you are sharing that bottle of wine, you’re sharing conversation, and you’re sharing good times. With comedy you’re sharing jokes, sharing personal information and your foibles. Sharing a joke and sharing wine, it’s two of the same. Combing these two things that I love just seemed to make a lot of sense. That’s really all it is.”
Watts, who is about to sit the WSET (Award in Wine and Spirt) Certificate II followed by Certificate III, discovered wine almost 20 years ago. It happened when he was here for the 1999 Fringe with his former comedy partner Tim Ross and they went on a tour of the Barossa Valley.
“We met the guys at Rockford and I’ve been a member of the Stone Wall Society ever since then,” he says. “That’s what switched me onto wine. At Rockford, I tasted Basket Press and I was like, ‘Wow’. I had had wine before but I was more a beer drinker, particularly at that age in my early 20s. I had that glass of Shiraz and said, ‘Whatever that is, that is the greatest thing of all time’. I started drinking more wine, seeking it out and enjoying it.”
Watts will join winemakers, wine writers, chefs and even an anthropologist, as one of the 19 judges for this year’s Hot 100 Wines.
“Isn’t that terrifying?” he laughs. “I haven’t told any of my friends yet. There’s always that look from my friends when they hear something like this: ‘Oh, how did you get into that?’
“I’ll take it pretty seriously. I sit my WSET Certificate II pretty soon and by the time I get back to Adelaide I hopefully will have my Certificate III as well. I think it’s good to have. I love wine, I’m not looking to become a sommelier or a master of wine, or do anything with the qualifications. I just think it’s kind of respectful, given I’m working so much with the wine industry, to take the time to learn more about wine.”
Grapes of Mirth featuring Tommy Little, Nikki Britton, Akmal Saleh, Luke McGregor, Tom Ballard, Merrick Watts and Fiona O’Loughlin
Saturday, September 1, 12pm to 7pm