Review: How to Drink Wine Like A Wanker at Universal Restaurant, Lygon Street

By Flora Norton


“It takes a particularly stoic form of existence to continue trying even when you are repeatedly told that you are not enough.” The plight of the Merlot was contemplated in depth by Anna Thomas on Thursday night at ‘How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker’ while the 15 of us sitting in the audience contemplated our flights of wines, wondering if we’d every achieve true wanker status.

HTDWLAW was, without a doubt, one of my favourite theatre experiences this year and it has nothing to do with the fact that there were 6 glasses of wine involved. As someone who picks wine based on ratio of alcohol content to price, I have always been sceptical of modern wine snobbery and was convinced, on entering the restaurant, that nobody, not even this ‘Anna Thomas,’ could make me taste chocolate tones in a drink made out of grapes.


Yet I was to be proved wrong, repeatedly, as Thomas talked us through three whites and three reds, describing with shameless vigour, the hidden flavours and depth contained in each. Not only could I taste the flavours Thomas was talking about, I also understood for the first time in my life, how people can dedicate their lives to growing, drinking and understanding something I’d always seen as nothing more than a quick fix to a bad day.


Over the hour Thomas flitted between educational and personal seamlessly, finding the perfect balance between humour, depth and information. Funny, honest and desperately likeable, Thomas had the audience captivated from the moment she opened the first bottle of Riesling as she wove her personal life story in amongst the wine notes and the self-deprecating jabs at her own snobbery (or lack thereof).


Thomas’ performance was, at times, dramatic and theatrical, but in a style reminiscent of Olivia Coleman, she was also powerfully moving and as she talked about the various tragedies and injustices in her life, intimidating in her criticism of sexism and ignorance. Yet she skilfully retains control of the story and the audience, tying everything together with exclamations such as, “I felt like the Grenache of the corporate world, overworked and completely undervalued.”

Over the house Thomas explains how she became a ‘wine wanker’ and the moments in her life where each of these six wines had meant something to her. With such a small audience, the play felt cosy and personal and at times, it felt more like a conversation with friends than a play performed by a stranger.


“How to drink wine like a wanker” is the perfect evening activity for friends and family and is a guaranteed conversation starter for the drive home. Whether you’re a wine snob who thinks you know better, or an amateur like me who’s just after the six tastings, you’re sure to enjoy it and come out having learnt something new. I certainly did – I’ve never been a pinot girl before but next time I’m at the Cellar Door I’ll be buying a bottle of the 2018 Ashton Hills “Estate” Pinot Noir (Adelaide Hills, SA).

Image Supplied


All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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