It is that time of the year…the week of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, and I can’t wait for the grand tasting!
But before I go, a bit of advice learned from over 20+ years of going to wine festivals. It applies anywhere, and if you haven’t gone before, it can save you some heartache.
First, a few things to definitely do. And number one is spit, don’t drink!
Many people may find that gross, but with hundreds of wines to taste, it doesn’t take long for even the little two ounce pours to build up. If you drink them all, the alcohol will sneak up on you for sure. And not only will you quickly not be able to distinguish one wine from another, you will just be flat out drunk! Every year I see at least a few of them – stumbling around in their finest suits and dresses, wine all over the front, and silly expressions on their faces.
So spit into the buckets provided. It’s not hard, and you can still enjoy the taste of the wine without the alcohol.
Another is to have a plan in advance. Sparkling/whites/reds/sweet wines works for me, but you might want to stick to all of one colour, or maybe just a few countries or grape varieties. But if you don’t have a plan, the whole thing can be overwhelming, and you waste time figuring out what to do.
What not to do?
Well, don’t stand around at the booth after you get your wine! Yes, the proprietors like to talk to people. But if there is a long line up behind you, people will get mad. Get your glass, say a few words, and move on. You can always come back!
Second, is don’t wear perfume or cologne. Wine is so much about the aroma, and perfume/cologne just blocks that out. Not only will you not be able to smell the wine, those around you won’t either.
Finally, ladies, no high heels – they aren’t worth the risk or the pain. I see lots of women sitting down by the middle of the evening, grimacing in pain. And – worse – there is at least one accident a night that can send you tumbling to the floor, usually with wine all over you.
But what about the wines, you say? What should I taste this year?
Well, France is the focus – the Rhone in particular – and I recommend two wineries for sure. Domaine Perrin is one, the makes of the fabulous Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel. It is my favourite wine, and one of the great red wines of the world. In terms of northern Rhones, check out Jaboulet, and in particular the Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert. All Syrah, it is lean but ripe, with pepper, black cherries, firm tannins, but no wood.
And don’t forget BC! Two of my favourite wineries are there again this year. Averill Creek from Vancouver Island makes amazing Pinot Noirs. And Blue Mountain from the Okanagan is pouring one of its vintage sparkling wines (the 2009 Rose). Both of these wines can stand up to any others in the room.
So there you go! There are lots of other wineries and wines to choose from, but this should get you started.