Spanish winners that make a splash at the wine festival

With 1450 wines at this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to try. I’ve recently tasted dozens of wines from 10 different countries to make it simpler for you to choose.

As Spain is in the spotlight at the festival, let’s begin with a Spanish bubbly from Penedes, a 2014 JuvéCamps Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature Cava ($20). Cavas are blends of three indigenous grapes to make one of the best value sparkling wines made by the méthode champenoise.

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Handpicked, hand riddled and aged, the Cava is dry, with flavours of peaches and apricots, citrus and toasted almonds, and displays an elegant texture. Enjoy at the Feb. 24 Bacchanalia Gala Dinner, the Feb. 28 Cava Trade Seminar, the March 3 Viva Iberia Lunch and the popular tasting room.

Another delicious sparkler from Spain is the Parés Balta 2010 Cava Blanca Cusiné ($25). With seven years of aging, it’s toasty and complex and was one of the favourites at the Blue Water media preview. As the proprietor, Joan Cusiné described it, “It’s an extrovert. It speaks for itself, like my daughter Blanca…that’s why it’s named after her.” Available at the Feb. 28 Cava Trade Seminar and the March 1 Festival Toast.

For something affordable, cheerful and widely available in local stores, reach for the Bodega Alvear Fino ($19.99). Produced in Montilla, which is located next to the famous Jerez region that makes sherry, this is a slightly cheaper Fino-style bone-dry tasty white wine.

If you love olives and other tapas, the Alvear Fino should be in your wine fridge. Expect a deep bouquet of olives, raisins and nuts with a rich flavour of apples, almonds, salt and olives. Taste it at the Feb. 28 Shades of Sherry Trade Seminar, the March 3rd Viva Iberia Lunch and the Tasting Room.

One of the most popular reds at the media preview was the Torres 2012 Mas la Plana ($90), named after the prestigious vineyard near Barcelona. This 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon turned heads at the Paris Wine Olympiad, when the 1970 vintage triumphed over some of the most famous wines in the world, including some of the best from Bordeaux.

Here is how Wine Enthusiast editor for Spain, Michael Schackner describes it, “A smooth, creamy nose of vanilla, oak and berry aromas leads to a ripe, saturated palate with a meaty texture. Flavours of black fruits, wild herbs, licorice and spice are long, savory and chocolaty on a finish that lasts three minutes.” He scores it 94 points out of 100, which is an A+ in anybody’s books.

You can taste this winner at the March 1st Storied Iberia in Nine Wines Trade Plenary Session, the March 1st Torres Seminar, the March 3rd Decanter World Wine Awards and the four tasting room events.

One of the best things about the Vancouver Wine Festival, besides the wines, is the opportunity to talk to the owner or the winemaker. For example, Miguel Torres Maczassek of Torres will be pouring his Mas La Plana and answering your questions. For more details, visit

Eric Hanson is a retired Richmond teacher and wine educator.

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