With over 700 wines from 16 countries, the tasting room is the beating heart of the Vancouver International Wine Festival. The eight-day fete, held February 22 to March 1, gathers together in one room grapes raised from sun-soaked hills of southern Portugal, the steep Chilean Andes, and the arid heartland of British Columbia—but most of all from France, whose rich and varied wine country takes centre stage this year.
Don’t be intimidated by the dazzling variety of wine regions, producers and varieties that make up the festival (1,450 different wines will be poured over the week), along with dinners, seminars and minglers. We’ve put together some simple tips to conquer the festival tastings—held Thursday, Friday and Saturday—and to wring every last drop from your experience.
Wine tastings are meant to be enjoyable, but you won’t fully savour the experience if you’re tired, sore, or hungry. Take a cue from professionals and wear comfortable shoes you can stand in for hours, and eat something before you go to the tasting room. To keep your senses clear and sharp, forego any fragrance (perfume is an absolute no-no.)
Is there a wine region you love or want to get to know better? Then you’re off to a good start. Countries are laid out alphabetically, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure where to begin, visit the regional wine tasting stations—such as New Zealand, Germany or Emilia-Romagna—and sample your way through until you find a region on which you’d like to focus.
Like it or not, spitting out your wine is the best course of action; those sips add up quickly. Use the provided spittoons so you can sample a wider range, learn more, and stay upright for the entire evening. Feel free to ask questions, but don’t monopolize a table when others are waiting for a pour.
A French wine must-sip cheat sheet
With France in the spotlight, this year’s festival is a perfect opportunity to sample your way across the wine regions of France. Here are some suggestions for unmissable wines to tick off your list.
From the Rhone Valley: Jean Luc Colombo, M. Chapoutier, Château Pesquié and Domain Michel Gassier.
From Burgundy: Maison Joseph Drouhin.
From the Loire Valley: Joseph Mellot.
From Alsace: Hugel & Fils.
From Champagne: Laurent-Perrier and Champagne Taittinger.
From Bordeaux: Maison Sichel.
Events and dinners
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is more than just a grand tasting. If intimate events are your style, try out a dinner or seminar.
Dine with Black Hills Estate Winery winemaker Ross Wise at the Teahouse in Stanley Park, Monday, February 24.
Finish off your festival on a light pink note with the Rah, Rah Rosé mingler at VCC on Saturday.
Read more in Food and Drink.