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A user guide to the Fresh Wine Disco in the Adelaide Hills

Four seasoned wine-world bons vivants give us their rundown of what to expect at this year’s Fresh Wine Disco, part of Tasting Australia 2018.

By Emma Breheny
The Fresh Wine Disco returns to Tasting Australia for 2018. We asked some experienced disco-goers for their party advice.
The dancefloor at the 2017 Fresh Wine Disco

Fresh Wine Disco. It's a string of words that gives you pause. A fresh disco sounds like a squeaky-clean high school mixer. And wine at a disco doesn't usually travel so well. But cast your doubts aside momentarily. Fresh Wine Disco, one of the final events of Tasting Australia and an unofficial after party of sorts, is by all accounts loose, loud and a little bit loco; less about the wine and more a knees-up at the end of vintage.

The brainchild of Basket Ranges winemaker, Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels, the event is only in its second year but has already become a showpiece of the festival. The idea is to try new-harvest wines from the 2018 vintage picked just weeks ago, talk to the producers (who represent some of the country's best natural winemakers) and then drop some moves with them on the dance floor.

This year, the event moves from the Uraidla Show Hall to the more imposing (and recently renovated) surrounds of The Manor, the former Camelot Castle. There are twice as many tickets, shuttles to and from Adelaide, five DJs and Adelaide food van TacoCat will join the dudes from Sydney burger-and-natural-wine bar Mary's.

A costumed party-goer at the 2017 event
A costumed party-goer at the 2017 event

"I think people will be taken away to another level," Ochota says. "The event will be spread out over different rooms of the castle. There'll even be a DJ in a little chapel. Whatever your heart desires at that minute, there'll be something for you."

How do you tackle all this in one night? We asked the experts: Jake Smyth of Mary's, Damon Koerner, who makes up half of Clare Valley winery Koerner, Charlotte Hardy of Charlotte Dalton Wines, who was eight months pregnant at last year's event and likely has the most lucid memories of the night, and Ochota himself.

Can you sum up the Fresh Wine Disco for us in three words?
Taras Ochota: Vinification gone mad.
Charlotte Hardy: Really good fun.
Damon Koerner: Bloody good fun.
Jake Smyth: Can I use four words? Cold. Drunk. Hot chips.

What was the highlight of last year's disco?
DK: The after-party at The Uraidla Hotel.
CH: I remember the breakdancing. And the dire conversations around the fire pit – they were just too ridiculous. And I remember the costumes so well. Most winemakers had sequins or something going on.
JS: Someone turned up with a six-litre plastic jug of unlabelled wine and went "here you go, son". That was me done. I didn't see any of it [the event] apart from the inside of Mary's and then maybe a bonfire. My vague memory is screaming and throwing fries at people.

Amber Ochota of Ochota Barrels
Amber Ochota of Ochota Barrels

Who had the most fun?
CH: That's a big question.
DK: Michael Downer from Murdoch Hill. That's all I'll say.
TO: I'd say Stuart Proud from Proud Primary Produce and [Yarra Valley winemaker] Luke Lambert. I think if you asked them "What was it like?" they wouldn't be able to tell you. They indulged in a lot of their colleagues' elixirs, used it as a research and development trip and just researched too much. There were lost wallets, lost sunglasses, lost memories. I was very proud of them.

Are costumes essential?
TO: We encourage dressing up. If you're into the '70s or '80s – or even the '90s – and you feel inclined to get into some crazy outfit, go for it.
JS: To be honest, it was very difficult to tell the difference between people that were decked out and people that were dressed normally in the Adelaide Hills. There's some very flamboyant people up there. But you can guarantee that you won't find me dressed up.

Attendees tasting wines at the 2017 event
Attendees tasting wines at the 2017 event

What's your suggested plan of attack?
JS: I feel like people shouldn't take these things too seriously. We don't, the winemakers don't. It's a disco, a party. The idea of it is to turn up, choose five or six winemakers you want to hassle and get in there and give them some stick.
CH: Just go! I think some people are frightened by Fresh Wine Disco but it's such a good afternoon and evening.
TO: Well it starts at 4pm, so get there at 4.01pm definitely. The 35 winemakers will show their wines until 6.30pm. I've asked them to bring whatever they think is really special. Cruise along, talk to the winemakers, move around the gardens. By then you're probably sick of it, so go to the bar and get a cleansing G&T and then maybe have another seven. And then you get on the dance floor and realise you're in absolutely euphoric bliss and then it's over. So the earlier you get on the dance floor the better. You won't regret it.

The making of the "field blend" at last year's event
The making of the "field blend" at last year's event

What's your number one piece of advice for punters this year?
TO: No one's going to take away your bowl: take it easy little pussy cat. Also, if it's a beautiful day in the Hills in autumn, it's going to be freezing at night. Bring a warm jacket.
DK: Have a quiet night the night before. Come in a mood ready to party. And rug up.
CH: Wear a costume. Last year Peter Dredge [of Meadowbank Wines] dressed as some kind of superhero, with underwear worn on the outside and a cape. I'd also encourage the consumption of more food. And look at the wines! It's a shame that everyone missed out on that [last year].
JS: Don't drink flagons of wine that are given to you by anybody. By yourself, even. Or maybe that is my advice. I woke up and no one was angry at me.

Fresh Wine Disco, 21 April, 4pm-11.30pm, 762 Lobethal Rd, Basket Range SA. $90 plus booking fee or $112 plus booking fee for ticket and bus transfer. Book via tastingaustralia.com.au