The first words out of my partners mouth when she realised that there were only four episodes of Grace Rouray’s acerbic and hilarious 600 Bottles of Wine series, were along the lines of ‘you send her an email right now and tell her there needs to be more’.
Now, I haven’t emailed Grace to tell her that yet, instead, I’m sitting here writing a review about her 2017 series which has now arrived on Netflix for the world to enjoy and fall in love with. I’m late to the party with this one, with the show having kicked off as a webseries, with screenings on Ten and ABC iView, but as they, better late than never.
The plot is as familiar as they come – four women navigate relationships and romance in a modern world, all the while bonding over wine and men in a bar in Sydney – but through Grace Rouvray’s masterfully comedic writing, a freshness and vibrancy is brought to the table. Rouvray leads the cast as Claire, a woman freshly out of a five year relationship, thrusting herself back into the dating pool and grappling with the notion of whether it’s a one night stand that she wants, or a partner.
She’s excellently supported by a group of best friends, Nerida Bronwen’s Nat, Nancy Denis’ Timmie, and Stephanie Baine’s Harriet. I have no idea if Grace is friends with these actors off screen, but the natural, familiar way that they talk and share sex stories makes it feel like we’re watching their real lives unfurl.
Which kinda makes sense. I interviewed Grace in early 2020, alongside standup comic partner Katie Lees for their comedy show Hour of Power, and found that Grace had a deftness in being able to take her life stories and bring them to life with all the comedic flourishes needed to make them entertaining and relatable.
600 Bottles of Wine is exactly that: entertaining and relatable. As Claire embarks on a relationship with wine snob Pat (Angus McLaren), she finds it’s a partnership solely focused around bedroom activities. Initially, there’s no problem with that, after all, Pat is a good looking guy, but when invites to meet her friends are continually avoided, it’s clear he’s just a one night stand that’s gone on too long.
Claire’s friends nickname him Negroni, after the fact that he made her the drink on one of their first ‘dates’, and brutally conduct a live autopsy on the man after each encounter Claire has with him. It’s these moments that make 600 Bottles of Wine downright hilarious, and easily a show that I’ll be slipping on for background comfort viewing. There’s a comfortable ease to the banter, making me wonder why the fuck Grace Rouvray hasn’t managed to nab a TV series deal, or even a comedic feature.
On top of that, Ainslie Clouston’s direction instills scenes with immediate energy that makes everything feel alive. The economy that Clouston employs in bringing Rouvray’s dialogue to life is noticeable, pushing what could have easily been a half hour of content into a tight fifteen-eighteen minutes. Even though the show was initially presented as short, minutes long webisodes, Clouston’s direction make it feel like she was directing a feature, so cohesive and consistent is the vibe of 600 Bottles of Wine.
I’ve mentioned in the past about how Australian audiences continually think we can’t make comedies, and I reject that notion completely, but Rouvray’s comedic voice is so on point, so downright hilarious, and so enduringly quotable, that I’m positively itching for a feature written by Rouvray. Additionally, all the women fill the screen with such vibrancy and life that I simply need to see more of them on camera.
With that said, I want to circle out both Grace Rouvray and Nancy Denis’ acting. Grace is a genuine treat to watch, with her body language and facial expressions being downright perfect making her a natural for the camera. In the last episode, there’s a perfect break up scene that is made all the more better due to Rouvray’s performance. Throw in her spot on line delivery as well and it’s easy to see Rouvray already being a comedic mastermind in the Australian comedy scene.
Then there’s Nancy Denis. Look, I’d not heard of Nancy Denis before, but I desperately need to see her on screen more. Denis is an absolute delight! Every line she delivers as Timmie demands you rewind just to hear her utter it perfectly again and again, making you laugh each and every time. At one point, Timmie, shuts down a drunk friend, and I tell you what, it gave me life to hear her taking no shit from no one.
It feels unfair to circle out these two actresses, given everyone in the show is a joy to watch, but that’s just the impression I get from my initial viewing of 600 Bottles of Wine. Given this is all we’ve got right now (c’mon Netflix, throw some money Rouvray’s way and give her another season), I’m sure I’ll notice even more on repeat viewings. And believe me, there will be repeat viewings. All up, this lasts for just over an hour, and that blasts by with all the quickness, with Rouvray clearly pulling from the UK school of TV shows, where less is more.
If you haven’t realised yet, 600 Bottles of Wine is a pure joy to watch, with familiarity and relatability making deeply comedic moments spring to life with ease. I desperately need more Grace Rouvray and co. comedy on my screens, and I’m kicking off the petition right now to make that happen.
Now, excuse me while I shoot an email off and tell her to make more.
Director: Ainslie Clouston
Cast: Grace Rouvray, Nancy Denis, Nerida Bronwen, Stephanie Baine
Writer: Grace Rouvray