Wine retailer Honest Grapes has teamed up with theatre company Revels in Hand to mix virtual performances with wine tastings, writes Peter Ranscombe.
SO MANY aspects of our lives have gone online during the past year.
The trips to the virtual pub; the frustrations of online grocery shopping; the video calls instead of “just popping round” to see your mum.
Revels in Hand is best known for putting on private performances in people’s homes and for bespoke corporate and charity gatherings.
For tonight’s premier performance, the group selected a mix of six monologues, songs, and extracts from plays.
Recordings of the performances were shown on Zoom, with Honest Grapes founder Tom Harrow donning a cravat and velvet jacket to act as master of ceremonies and introduce four accompanying wines.
Exton Park makes its second appearance of the day
The evening opened with “A poetic celebration of wine”, a collection of quotes from characters ranging from Homer and Galileo through to Nina Simone and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The phrases and saying drew chuckles from the audience and set the tone for a relaxed night of wine and theatre.
Harrow paired the opening act with the new Exton Park RB 32 Brut, which made its press debut this afternoon.
In the half-bottle format, there were more obvious toasted notes on the nose, alongside the intense lemon, green apple, and grapefruit flavours.
An extract from Twelfth Night as the second act was perhaps the most successful of the six pieces, with Revels in Hand founder Lucy Eaton – fresh from starring alongside Michael Sheen and David Tennant in the BBC’s Staged – delivering a sly look to camera that perfectly captured the magic of live theatre in a way that film or television simply cannot.
Harrow’s second wine was a surprise package – a 2019 Jean Durup Chablis l’Eglantiere.
While Chablis is classically steely, the warmer 2019 brought rounder red apple flavours to the party, assisted by a lick of butter too.
He segued between the third act – an extract from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – and the white by quipping: “From a classic scene to a classic wine”.
Something old, something new
Act four took the form of My Battle With Drink, a vintage monologue by PG Wodehouse, which lent itself perfectly to an online performance – simple, understated, and laugh-out-loud funny.
The third wine, a 2018 Castello Romitorio Romitòro, was anything but understated.
Made in Tuscany with an unusual blend of syrah and petit verdot, it was bold, it was rich, it was concentrated, with red and black cherries, dried herbs, and grainy tannins that were crying out for a steak.
The penultimate act was a new one on me – an extract from The Provoked Wife by 17th-century playwright John Vanbrugh, which received a modern twist.
But the final wine, a 2012 Niepoort Tawny Dee, was much more familiar, with the tawny port’s sweet bright nose full of orange, raspberry jam, and caramel leading seductively into more caramel, toffee, and raisin on the palate.
The cleverest part of Niepoort’s tawny though is the way that the oxidised flavours from its time in wooden barrels don’t mask its deliciously bright red fruit flavours.
Onto the grand finale, and a rendition of a folk song called “The Parting Glass”, which went down very well with the audience.
Bravo and brava to the performers and hats off to Honest Grapes for continuing to innovate – Scotland’s hospitality industry might be about to reopen, but a blend of online and offline entertainment is still going to be needed in the weeks and months ahead.