Dan Sims doesn’t like the phrase “wine tasting”. The wine commentator and founder of Bottle Shop Concepts – the company behind plonk festivals Game of Rhones and Pinot-Palooza – believes people want to learn about wine in the same way they consume it: socially.
While it may be difficult to take a winemaker seriously when he’s dressed as Jon Snow, a sell-out event that now runs in seven cities and two countries is a big deal.
This isn’t just a fantasy-themed piss-up, Sims assures; “We’ve got serious wines in a non-serious setting.”
Now in its fourth year, Game of Rhones will feature 40 of the best wine producers from across the country celebrating France’s Rhone Valley varietals; shiraz, grenache, mourvedre, viognier and more.
At the Rhone Bar, you can unearth drops from the Rhone Valley with the help of “spirit guides” (sommeliers). In all cities except Brisbane, wines can be purchased at cellar-door prices.
Tickets are $60 and include a Plumm Vintage REDa wine glass (“there’s no excuse for bad stemware at a wine festival”), Evian and Badoit water to keep you hydrated, and all wine tastings. Or, opt for the Royal Pass to secure VIP access to events and a food voucher.
Each city will feature a decent food line-up, too.
“In Sydney, we’ve got the boys from Porteño cooking up meat; in Melbourne, there’s the Burn City Smokers; in Brisbane, we use Gerard’s Bistro; and in Adelaide there’s Duncan Welgemoed from Africola doing food.”
If you only have time to visit three producers on the day, Head Wines from the Barossa Valley; McLaren Vale’s Brash Higgins; and Waiheke Island’s Manowar are Sims’s picks.
And there’s a torture chamber.
“We have some actors in costume who blindfold you in a dark room. We have some really awesome torture music playing, and you have to guess what wine they’re putting in your mouth while these guys have fun with you.”
Game of Rhones is happening Saturday June 18 at Meat Market Melbourne and Sunday June 19 at Blacksmiths Workshop Carriageworks, Sydney.