Wine industry comedy more than a good drop in the tourism ocean

By / 20th of April, 2015
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SOUTH Australia and its iconic wine regions star in the second season of satirical comedy Plonk, heralding a new frontier of tourism.

The Plonk series takes an off-kilter look at the South Australia wine industry that is “part comedy narrative, part documentary”. The mockumentary follows the many misadventures of a film crew who are making a wine show – but the true star is the burgeoning wine and hospitality industry of Australia’s south.

After a successful first season set in New South Wales, the famous wine regions South Australia were a natural choice the series’ follow-up foray. But Plonk’s creator, Nathan Earl, says that in many ways South Australia was always the prime pick.

“South Australia was on our radar from the very beginning,” Earl said. “It is the Ground Zero for wine in Australia, it has the largest amount of wine regions.”

Earl – who also co-writes and stars in the show – pitched the idea with co-stars Chris Taylor and Joshua Tyler to the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) in October last year. But - Earl said - it was a reasonably simple sell.

 “The SATC knew the story and understood the humour and the audience we are trying to reach,” Earl said. “The SATC is also well known for being risk takers and for being a little bit edgy… coming off the Barossa’s ‘Be Consumed’ television advert, perhaps they thought the beautiful, elegant, art-directed piece was done.

“What’s the harm to try something a little more subversive?”

Screen Australia, the SATC, the SA Film Corporation and Wine Selectors sponsor the second season of the web series.

South Australia Tourism Minister Leon Bignell said Plonk was an organic fit for the state’s wine regions: Barossa, Clare, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra.

“The show is quirky, irreverent and creative and plays beautifully to South Australia’s strengths,” he said.

“It was only fitting for Plonk to film in our state and shine the spotlight on our inspiring wine stories.”

The series will premiere exclusively on STAN, a digital streaming service, in June.

“We’re a whole generation of people who want to get into that world but don’t know where to begin. Plonk shows that these places are accessible.”
 

The production schedule was a tight squeeze. There were 44 filming days across South Australia’s five wine regions with more than 90 “characters” – iconic local winemakers playing exaggerated versions of themselves. Complicating things further, filming took place during harvest time in January through March – which made the schedule harder but made the content absolutely Grange quality.

“There was a lot of collaboration between us, the winemakers and the production team about what went into the script and what rang true,” Earl said.

The crew captured up to 30 different locations for each of the six 30-minute episodes but it wasn’t as arduous as imagined. Most of the regions are just 45 minutes’ drive from the capital city of Adelaide.

“Really, we didn’t have to go very far. It’s like going around the corner to buy bread and milk,” said Earl.

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Busting myths about the physical and intellectual accessibility of Australia’s wine regions is one of the main edicts of Plonk.

Plonk – the brainchild of team members from widely acclaimed Australian political sketch comedy program The Chaser’s War on Everything – shows that enjoying wine is a rounded experience and involves exploration.

“People aren’t going to watch it and try to make their own wine, but they do go to these regions, they get excited about wine, join a wine club or mailing list,” Earl said.

“We’re a whole generation of people who want to get into that world but don’t know where to begin. Plonk shows that these places are accessible.”

South Australia is, in Earl’s mind, the best example of this yet.

“What I learned about South Australia is there are amazing things happening all year round,” Earl said.

“The passion of the wine industry, diversity of the regions, appreciation for food and wine, music and culture; this extends well beyond ‘events season’.

“It is breathed and pulsated all year round.”

Although the show is satirical, the joke is always on the television production crew and never the wine industry.

Still, the many winemakers, grape growers, politicians, chefs and associated professionals who represented the state during filming were in themselves great characters who told the stories of an iconic part of South Australia.

Cameos from Yalumba Wines chairman Robert Hill Smith, wine icon and Hill of Grace creator Stephen Henschke and famed d’Arenberg winemaker Chester Osborn are peppered throughout the series.

Earl also recalls the joy of meeting Brother John of Sevenhill winery in the Clare Valley where sacramental wine is made.

“Meeting an 80-year-old Jesuit priest who has been making wine since before I was born was a real thrill,” he said.

Earl, Taylor and Tyler will be touring Australia for question and answer sessions regarding Plonk season 2 as guests of Wine Communicators Australia, starting in Adelaide on Tuesday 21 April. Further dates are available in Melbourne and Sydney.

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The wine capital of Australia


There are over 200 cellar doors on Adelaide’s doorstep. Adelaide is the wine capital of Australia. We’re sure you’ve heard of the Barossa. There is so much to explore, including McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra and more!

- from SATC