Tomorrow the 2012 Vancouver International Wine Festival begins with the usual great assortment of tastings and events. With 962 wines from 181 wineries and 15 countries, the Festival can be overwhelming. So here is a simple guide — if you need it — of 7 wines from 7 wineries in 7 countries.
Of the 18 wineries at this year’s Festival, there are at least a half dozen worth going to taste at, but if I had to pick one this year it would be the Inland Trading Company. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t be surprised — but you may have heard about some of its wineries. Think Turkey Flat, Charles Cimicky, Burge Family and Rolf Binder!
Look for old vine Shiraz and Cabernet Shiraz blends here, and in all price ranges. The wines under $20 can be incredible values and the more expensive ones can age for years in your cellar.
There isn’t as great a contingent of BC wineries this year for some reason. But of the ones that are coming, I would go to Nk’Mip for a tasting. This First Nations winery from Osoyoos makes some beautiful, fruit forward wines that can also be great values. For whites, the Riesling is nice, as is the Chardonnay (both the regular and the reserve, which is called Qwam Qmt). The latter are made in a California style.
For reds, their best wines are the Pinot Noirs, again both the regular (for under $20) and the Qwam Qmpt for $30. These are a nice cross between Burgundy and California, ripe but not candied, and just enough oak. The Qwam Qmt Syrah is also very nice, although a bit pricey at $34.95.
Everyone knows my bias for Rhone wines and with the great 2009 vintage now hitting the shelves, it is nice to see more than a couple of producers at the festival. If I had to pick one of them to go to, it would once again be the Perrin family, which is famous for its Chateau de Beaucastel Chateuneuf du Pape. But they also make fabulous single vineyard Gigondas and Vacqueyras (for about $35 and $27 respectively). And for value, the Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve — white and red blends — are hard to beat at about $16!
An old favourite is my pick from Italy — Antinori! Their prices — like all Italian wines — are now very high, but the quality is still good at all levels. You might get a chance to taste one of the first “super Tuscans” in the Tignanello, which is expensive at about $100 but nice to taste! There will also be at least a couple of their famous Chiantis, so look for the Marchesi Antinori Tenute Marchesi and the Peppoli. Finally, even the Toscano Ross Villa Antinori is a good bet.
5. New Zealand
Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc — the two reasons to check out the few New Zealand wineries at the festival. One I found last year that was great and is back this year is Giesen. They make great regular and reserve versions of these wines (the latter called “Brother”), and while not cheap they are incredibly ripe and pure.
I have to be careful with Spain, personally, because I don’t like oaked Garnacha (which is what most of the wineries there do). But I do love Rioja, and this year one of my favourites is there — Bodegas Muga. Dark, brooding and long lived, these are “red wine lovers red wines”.
Last but not least, the Festival is a great chance to try many of the California wines that are now way to expensive to buy up here! Lots of different options, but one you may not have heard of is Paul Hobbs. A former winemaker for some of the great “Califoria cult cabs” he has his own winery that is turning out some amazing Cabernet Sauvignons, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Unfortunately, they are all in the $50++ category, so enjoy the tastes unless you have a lot of disposable income!