The Wine Bluffs

Patricia Maunder

Damian Callinan and Paul Calleja have hit on a winning formula with The Wine Bluffs.
The Wine Bluffs

The Wine Bluffs image via Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Damian Callinan and Paul Calleja have hit on a winning formula with The Wine Bluffs, a stand-up show that lovingly lampoons wine snobbery. These veteran Melbourne comedians have a ready-made audience in anyone who likes a glass or three, though that rare person who doesn’t will also enjoy laughing at the obsessions of oenologists – or wine wankers, as they are described in this irreverent yet clever show.


Callinan and Calleja, who plays the slightly straight guy, are smooth operators who hand each other gags and keep the show moving along at a brisk pace. With glass of wine in hand, they seamlessly segued from one segment to the next, like a morning TV program, but much cheekier, and with a considerably more humble set (essentially two wine barrels; those bottles they filled their glasses from had to sit somewhere).

Their demonstration of swirling wine in the glass became increasingly ostentatious. Calleja gave food-matching advice to audience members who called out wine varieties, offering suggestions such as fairy bread or Chicko rolls (easy laughs that were all in the delivery). Here and there, they threw in tales from their dubious background in the wine industry, including judging the fruit-wine section of the Rockhamption Show and owning a vineyard in the Northern Territory’s Central Desert region.

One of the most enjoyable segments was the search for the biggest wine wanker in the audience. Everyone was invited to stand up, until nearly all were back in their seats, eliminated by criteria such as having cask wine at home, or lacking different glasses for white and red wine. The winner was very unscientifically determined by the quality of their wine storage.

Gentle audience participation throughout was a key to the show’s success, as Callinan and Calleja quickly built up a sense of being part of a tribe. There was plenty of us-and-them humour, from jokes about other cities they had taken The Wine Bluffs, to observations about how wine wankerism has infiltrated some unlikely places.

Almost everything worked well: only Callinan sensing people’s ‘wine auras’ didn’t quite come off, but he made up for it with a surprising finale, demonstrating how a shoe will save the day if you don’t have a corkscrew handy. When the hour was up I was genuinely surprised. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Wine Bluffs

Written and performed by Damian Callinan and Paul Calleja

Beckett Theatre, The Malthouse, Melbourne, until 22 April

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Patricia Maunder is a Melbourne writer.