Wines are alive.
They're anthropomorphic; they can be playful, sombre or joyous. They have stories as well. They speak of the 'terroir' of the grape's origins, their maturation by the winemakers, and their ultimate reception by the wine-drinking public.
Anna Thomas' How to Drink Wine Like a Wànker is a funny yet heart-wrenching insight into her frustrations as a working woman, with career upheavals, unspeakable tragedies and ultimate accomplishments. Held at the Treasury 1860 bar, Thomas' fellow performers are an exquisite flight of wines ($10, and it really makes the show) curated by Thomas herself to be the lenses through which she tells her story. As though it was a regional cellar door with an unusually large but quiet patronage, Thomas shares her turbulent trajectory from corporate under-appreciation to 'wine groupie', to proud wine wànker.
Given the sartorial name, and the lady next to me taking flavour notes, one could expect a tasting class in Fringe disguise. Thomas delivers a show so personal, so honest, so, well, sobering, that the tasting often acts ingeniously as a lubricant for the more confronting moments. Just as there's no stage, there's no separation of invention between her life's story and the audience – it's not really a performance at all. The device of the tasting flight artfully acts as chapters of her story, and Thomas weaves the wine's qualities and perceptions into her own tale – where the Yelland & Papps "Second Take" Roussanne imbues colour in her enjoyable stories of affecting wine wànkerisms as a tour guide (and meeting a real wine wànker), and the Cirillo Estate "The Vincent" Grenache serves as a powerful underscore to her tragic exit from corporate torment. It's impossibly intimate, like we're drinking her story, her life.
How to Drink Wine Like a Wànker is a rare experience. From a cellar door perspective alone, Thomas is a wonderful host who is knowledgeable but not wànky about wine tasting. The part that makes it a great show isn't the wine (alone), it's Thomas herself, and her playful, sombre and joyous vintage.
Anna Thomas manages the Treasury 1860 and their first Fringe season as a venue as well as writing and directing this amazing show. Check out their offerings on the Fringe website.