Special Edition : Vancouver International Wine Festival
For us, as for many wine folks in the west, February signals Wine Fest. Now in its 37th year, Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) takes over the Vancouver Convention Centre and the attention of many sommeliers, wine enthusiasts and wine producers – from here and abroad. Dozens of principals and countless out-of-town attendees attend seminars, dinners, minglers, brunches, trade tastings, parties (and after parties) and the main event – the International Festival Tasting. The WineAlign team will be out in force, with Bill Zacharkiw, Nadia Fournier and Marc Chapleau coming out from Quebec and Heather Riley and Head Wineaux Bryan McCaw from Ontario. The BC team members will be speaking on various panels, and DJ Kearney will be overseeing the Global Focus Syrah/Shiraz station.
1750+ wines, 14 countries, 170 wineries. Where to start? The BC team (minus DJ, who is currently tasting in Australia) has put together a handy list of 20 wines to watch for under $20 available at the festival.
VIWF’s tagline is “The Wine World is Here.” I hope we’ll see you in Vancouver at the end of February.
Thirty seven years is a long time for any festival and special when the subject is wine. It took a lot of brave souls to launch the Vancouver International Wine Festival way back in 1979 but it’s firmly established today as one of the best consumer wine shows on the continent. Our task as always is to find 20 wines under $20 you can enjoy at the festival this month so with my picks I’m going worldwide.
First up is a new juicy, fun, garnacha – 5G Five Garnachas Five Generations from Miguel Torres. Garnacha tends to be more acidic and lower in alcohol in Spain versus the grenache of France making this one food friendly.
From the nearby Okanagan BC, winemaker Nikki Callaway will hold your attention with her Quails’ Gate Chardonnay. Less reductive, less overt oak more citrus and super juicy. Roast chicken is the match.
Be sure to drop by the Louis Bernard booth and find why the Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone Blanc is so delicious and so inexpensive. Stock up on this one.
Bubble is a useful sip at the festival cleansing your palate as move about the room. Don’t miss the value packed Mionetto Il Prosecco Frizzante. Balance and style bottled under a yellow crown cap you just pop off.
To finish I suggest a stop at Nugan Estate to discover the Down Under version of ripasso, “the Second Pass” re-fermented over the skins or pomace of the Nugan Alfredo Dried Grapes Shiraz.
Have fun, don’t forget to spit.
Rhys Pender MW
Australia is proudly the theme country for the Vancouver International Wine Festival and it often produces killer value wines. Bleasdale of Langhorne Creek in South Australia has a couple of beauties under the $20 mark. Try the Mulberry Tree Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for a nice, pure example of Cabernet.
If you are at Wine Festival you should also try to visit the Tahbilk table. Tahbilk has been around a long time and is kind of out on its own in the middle of Victoria. But the wines are killer, particularly the Shiraz and Marsanne 2013.
Penfolds will be sure to have some great red wines open for tasting at VIWF so be sure to check out that table. They also offer great value in the lower price points. Try the classic Aussie blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz Cabernet.
Yalumba is another table definitely worth a visit. One of the best wines in the Yalumba lineup is always the viognier as they helped pioneer this variety in both Australia and to the world. The Y Series Viognier 2013 is great value.
I feel like I am always recommending this wine to everyone but it is just such a good wine for the price and really hits the style that good cool climate Aussie Chardonnay should be aiming for. And a few dollars over $20 but worth it. It is the Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay. Both the 2012 and 2013 vintage are excellent.
One of the very best things about the International Festival Tasting is the chance to try something new. At every level, from fledgling through professional, there is something new on that floor to taste, and hopefully, find some new wines to love that won’t break the budget.
Many folks won’t have tried the traminer grape before, so Shot in the Dark 2013 Traminer Riesling from New South Wales is an aromatic and quaffable place to start.
Or perhaps you’d like to visit a new region? Sip Southern France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, with the tasty Château de Caraguilhes 2012 Domaine de L’Olivette Rouge, a humble and juicy organic blend of familiar grapes syrah, grenache and merlot.
Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 was a Judges’ Choice selection at the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada. This consistent, tropical, off-dry sipper over-delivers and is worth having in your ‘wines for a crowd’ collection.
From time to time, you’ll need to refresh your palate, and after water (drink water!) bubbles is a classic refresher. Cavas Hill 1887 Brut from Spain will do the trick, with its white grapefruit, green apple and lemon pith notes. Or skip to Italy, for the lively floral, yellow apple and pink grapefruit fruited Anna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic – you won’t be able to miss the dynamic green wrapped bottle.
While in Italy, swing by the Ruffino table, start on their entry level dusty cherry scented 2012 Chianti, and then work your way up through the winery’s ranks of increasing typicity and prestige.
When you think of white wine from New Zealand, chardonnay probably doesn’t come to mind. After trying the generously creamy melon and stone fruit of Marisco The King’s Legacy.
You don’t need to travel far from home to taste something new. BC is represented at the festival, so be sure to introduce yourself to Summerland’s 8th Generation 2013 Riesling and its bright, energetic orchard fruit. Or look to Oliver, in the southern Okanagan and the round and ripe fruited Cellar Hand 2013 Free Run White from Black Hills Winery, an aromatic and creamy blend of pinot blanc, muscat, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier.
It’s always a good idea to go out on a sweet note, so head to Portugal and finish off with some of the amazing fortifieds of the Taylor Fladgate / Fonseca / Croft Port partnership. If you’ve never tried, or heard of, pink port, now’s your chance with the candied strawberry and cool plum sweetness of Croft Pink Port (tip – also a great building base for cocktails).
If you don’t have your tickets to VIWF yet, there is still time. Many seminars and dinners have SOLD OUT, but there are still some great finds to be had. Your International Festival Tasting ticket is FREE if you book a downtown hotel with www.beVancouver.com. Details at www.vanwinefest.ca.
Check out Treve’s Travels feature on Australia TODAY Part I here, with Part II coming next week. In addition, DJ Kearney is previewing her Oceans, Altitudes & Attitudes seminar that she is presenting alongside Rhys Pender, Treve will be talking all about the Global Focus, Shiraz/Syrah in a look at this grape in all its forms, as well and sharing what top sommeliers and wine professionals are excited about this year with a recap of the popular trade seminar, Excitement in a Glass. All critics’ will chime in on their top 3 wines to taste at the festival in our joint BC Critics’ Report coming out next week. Finally, Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend column will take an insightful look at the festival and where wine culture and private liquor retail is in BC today.
Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!