Now in its 37th year, the Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) is one of the largest wine festivals in North America, and one of the top weeks of wine worldwide. There are over 1,750 wines, 14 participating countries, 170 wineries represented, and 53 events to attend. That’s a lot of glasses (not to mention empty bottles). But it’s not just by the numbers where VIWF impresses. The tagline is “The Wine World is Here”, and for 10 days annually, it’s true. This year’s theme region is Australia—no longer the land of cheap and cheerful critter labels, the country has emerged with an independent, spirited, and creative winemaking movement, powered by a new generation of young, sustainably-minded winemakers unhindered by convention or tradition. There are many wines specially brought in for the festival that have never been shown on these shores before.
Australia is known for its shiraz, and this year’s Global Focus is shiraz and syrah. From benchmark and iconic bottles to small boutique producers, say yes to these grapes. Along with those, here are a few other Aussie wines to help you explore the unexpected and avoid the obvious on the tasting room floor:
Tahbilk 2013 Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes
This long-lived marsanne is in the flush of youth, so expect whiffs of lemon, white peach, marmalade, and dried herbs leading to a crisp/mineral and medium bodied oily palate of pear, honeysuckle, earth, lemon thyme, and stony spice. Its well-knit rope of herbal earthiness and floral perfume, bright acid, and stone fruit is capped with a lengthy finish.
Shaw + Smith 2013 M3 Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills
Whole bunch press and wild ferment adds tactile complexities to this alluring, medium bodied white. Fine cream, apple and pear cross the finessed palate, textured with lees and stone. The wine is leaner edged, with vibrant acid spine structure supporting the ripe, pure fruited core. A fresh, lively, and lingering cool climate chardonnay.
Serafino 2012 Sorrento Dry Grown Grenache, McLaren Vale
Dry farmed bush vine grenache undergoes minimal oak handling, allowing the sun warmed fruit to shine. Fragrant raspberry, black cherry and dried herbs on the nose. The fleshy body carries the same, along with fine spiced mulberry and boysenberry, dark cocoa, opulent tannins, and a lifted juiciness. Great length in this mid/full bodied red.
De Bortoli 2010 Noble One Botrytis Semillon, New South Wales
This is one of the iconic sweet wines of the world. Concentrated, pure, and persistent notes of eraser, honeycomb, beeswax, apricot paste, green fig, tangerine, candied lime peel, and smoked stone. The wine is rich and unctuous across the palate, with tactile layers of herbal syrup and honeyed intrigue and length for days.
Numerous winery principals, winemakers, and personalities from around the globe are in attendance, leading seminars, hosting dinners, and working the room at the festival’s hub and heart, the International Tasting Room. Here, the wineries are grouped by country, crossing 33 regions and various styles. This is an opportunity to try something new and ask questions. Access to these individuals and their wines is rare.
Some final tips and tasting advice: wear comfortable shoes; dress up, or better yet, don’t dress down (there will be many a sharp suit or shift in the room); forgo the perfume, cologne, or scented lotion as it will take away from smelling the wine. Taste, taste, taste! If you think you don’t like a certain region or style, head there first and earnestly try to convince yourself otherwise. Remember to spit as well. Grab an extra wine glass for your own personal spittoon, as it can be tricky to jostle around the spit bucket in peak hours (don’t congregate in front of it either, rookie error). Lastly, water is key, so be sure to drink a lot of it along the way. Grab a bottle when you enter and refer to it often, as it will refresh your palate and energy. Cheers.
Photo by Treve Ring.