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September 7, 2022

Comedy, wine and a G&T mister

Grapes of Mirth is hitting Seppeltsfield in the Barossa for a two-day festival of laughs, drinks, and associated revelry. Comedian Merrick Watts gives us the lowdown on what to expect.

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  • This article was produced in collaboration with Grapes of Mirth.

As one of the founders and directors of Grapes of Mirth, comedian Merrick Watts is involved in the festival’s programming. This greatly explains the stellar lineup of Australian comedians scheduled for the event’s two days, but questions still linger over the inclusion of a walkthrough G&T mister.


Grapes of Mirth
29—30 October
Seppeltsfield Estate, Barossa Valley
Tickets at the website

“When they asked me about it, they said ‘Oh, there’s this G & T mister. Do you reckon 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 in the dark about its function.

“Let’s get something clear here, everyone: I don’t have to know about something to say yes to it,” he says happily.

Consequently, the mister will sit alongside an eclectic mix of activities peppering the grounds of Seppeltsfield Estate for this unique festival. These include wine tastings, a nail bar, live podcasting, cooking, music and, in the words of the organisers, the greatest wine list ever seen at a comedy show.

Holding Grapes of Mirth over two days allows for an incredibly diverse offering of comedic talent to satisfy every taste and demographic. “When we look at our lineup… we don’t book the same kind of voices or people who work in the same territory,” explains Merrick.

Saturday’s roster includes Rhys Nicholson, Melanie Bracewell, Peter Helliar, Colin Lane, Chris Ryan, Dane Simpson, Zoë Coombs Marr and more. Melissa Leong from MasterChef Australia will judge comedians’ cooking skills, and there will be a 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 others take to the main stage. Ivan Aristeguieta will also bring his online About This Much to the live stage for the first time, with Merrick as his co-host.

Merrick says the bill is made possible by the whole winery experience.

“I think the comedians and performers really love what we do with Grapes of Mirth,” he says. “It is very much like being away with your own group of friends in a winery, drinking wine and having a great time.

“It’s a similar experience for the audience and the performers. It’s why we’re able to access such great headline performers – because people really enjoy doing the gig.”

The wine experience will be headlined by wine doyen 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 segment on Sunday is an invitation to the brave and curious.

Sommelier Josh Pickens will also lead tastings along with local winemakers.


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“That’s something that we’ve made a real note of – making sure that [festivalgoers with] an interest in wine will have people they can talk to onsite at almost any time to indulge their interests,” says Merrick.

As a WSET-qualified sommelier, Merrick knows plenty about wine himself and is happy to recommend a bottle to anyone who asks.

“You know, you’re speaking to somebody who managed to fail Year 11 twice. So clearly, I don’t love studying. But yeah, I do like having knowledge in what I enjoy,” he says.

His upskilling was also prompted out of respect for people in the wine industry that he meets through Grapes of Mirth.

“I want them to know I fundamentally respect the amount of work they do [and] how it’s made and the nuances of it,” he says.

Grapes of Mirth has been held as a one-day event in major wine regions across Australia since 2017. Last year they moved to a two-day format for the Barossa, but COVID meant it was cancelled. It turned out to be a positive – the extra time in the lead-up to this year’s happening allowed it to significantly evolve.

“It’s much bigger and more rounded out,” says Merrick before reassuringly sliding into the vernacular. “The cancelled event was going to be good. But this is heaps better.”

He says the ethos behind the comedy and wine events is to bring people to wine.

“If people want to learn, great. If they don’t want to learn, we don’t care. We just want people to experience how good Australian wine is and how good we have it in this country,” he says.

“The other thing is that comedy and wine are just such a great pairing. They’re both sharing experiences… You share a laugh and you share a bottle of wine.

“They work perfectly, as opposed to comedy and Red Bull and vodka. But Red Bull and vodka and going off at a rave? Sure, that works for you, no problem.”

This segues neatly into the musical component of the festival. “We like to fill out the whole day and make it an experience as opposed to just watching comedy sets,” Merrick says. This includes sets from Adelaide singer-songwriter Stellie on Saturday and ARIA-nominated singer Odette on Sunday.

DJ Pedro Moshman is also bookending each day, nighttime sessions where “people can have a dance and let their hair down and throw it around a bit”.

Merrick is not averse to taking over the turntables either.

“There will be some sort of DJ battle at the end, and I can honestly say [it’s] gonna get ruthless,” he says. “It’s like the Hunger Games, for the younger people. It’s 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 spot on the bus when you purchase your ticket.

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