Vancouver International Wine Festival

Sip, swirl, spit!

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From February 20 to March 1, the 37th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will hold sway over wine and food lovers yet again. Winemaker dinners, seminars, a symposium or two, are all part of the proceedings. The theme country this year is Australia, so it is a great opportunity to freshen your knowledge and appreciation of a wine-growing country that is much, much more than its famous fruit-forward shiraz.

The festival is by now a world-class entity, important for the wine industry worldwide. One of the original and still vibrantly thrilling components is that all participating wineries must have one of their principals, either an owner or a winemaker, present at events and in the tasting room. This means, over the years, you would have had an opportunity to have Thomas Perrin, Wolf Blass, Etienne Hugel, Austin Hope, John Simes, Howard Soon, Donald Triggs pour their wines into your glass. Panel discussions tend to be not just informative but wildly entertaining at times, such as those with Michel Chapoutier last year.

Australian luminaries this year include Jane Ferrari, the iconic winemaker at Yalumba; Bill Hardy, of Hardy’s Wines; Sue Hodder, who makes amazing wine at Coonawarra Estate; Bruce Tyrrell of Tyrrell’s Wines; Neil McGuigan of McGuigans Wines. From other parts of the world: Aurelio Montes, founder of Montes in Chile; Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood; and Cynthia and David Enns of the Okanagan’s Laughing Stock Vineyards. And that is to name a very few.

The winemaker dinners are always a fabulous way to get a little more intimate with a particular winery, or perhaps a region. With 170 wineries from 14 countries, and 53 events, this is a heady time for wine lovers in Vancouver. Funds raised at the festival go in part to the Bard on the Beach Society, which runs June 4 to September 26 this year and features King Lear, The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and the world premiere of C.C. Humphrey’s Shakespeare’s Rebel.

The Acura Tasting Room, open to the wine-loving public Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, is a fantastic way to sniff, swirl, taste, and spit. Get your strategy ready; do an hour of whites, including a few sparklers, then delve into the reds. Remember, in this situation spitting the wine out is not about being polite, it is about surviving your evening of tasting. By all means make notes, ask questions, and expand your personal database of wines you enjoy. Listening to a Paul McCartney/Kanye West duet need not be only about Lindemans Bin 65 chardonnay, although it certainly could be.

Get to know your wines.

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January 14, 2015