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Column: Guide to the 2023 Vancouver International Wine Festival tastings

Wine tasting event features 147 wineries this year.
Some wines that will be available for tasting at this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival tastings.

The International Festival Tastings that occur from April 27 to 29, 2023 are the heart of the Vancouver International Wine Festival. There are four separate sessions you can attend and 147 wineries that will be pouring wines for consumers. This year’s wine festival theme is “Celebrating South America!”, so you should look out for South American wines that you may not otherwise see very often in B.C. With all the variety that can be found at the festival, here is my guide to some of the wines worth tasting (with their retail prices), for those who want to buy a bottle (there is a special onsite liquor store which will be selling many of the wines that are being poured at the festival tastings):

Bodega Garzon 2018 Balasto $115.99 – Bodega Garzon is a top winery from Uruguay. Consumers will have a chance to taste their flagship Balasto wine, which is a blend of 40-per-cent Tannat, 34-per-cent Cabernet Franc, 18-per-cent Petit Verdot, five-per-cent Merlot and three-per-cent Marselan. The wine is aged 20 months in French oak barrels. Tannat is an unfamiliar grape varietal to most North American wine consumers, so this is a great opportunity to try something new. Tannat is a grape varietal that delivers full body, high tannin, medium acidity wines with black currant, red plum, licorice and smoked meat aromas and tastes.

Mirafiore 2017 Paiagallo Barolo $195.00 – many people enjoy Barolo wines and Mirafiore is a top producer from the region that has been making wine since 1878. Paiagallo is a vineyard located in the village of Barolo, and it is about 320 to 370 metres above sea level. The wine is aged two years in oak barrels and packs a punch with 14 per cent alcohol content.

Felsina 2019 Fontallaro $109.99 – this winery was founded in 1966 and is located in the Chianti Classico region of Italy. Fontallaro is made with 100-per-cent Sangiovese grapes, which, at the time it was first produced in 1983, did not follow the rules in Chianti. As such, it is and continues to be an IGT or Super Tuscan wine.

Nicolas Feuillatte 2008 Palmes D’or $209.99 – founded in 1972, Nicolas Feuillatte’s champagne house style is defined by precision, elegance and finesse. This champagne is blend of 50-per-cent Pinot Noir and 50-per-cent Chardonnay grapes which have been cellared for 10 years before release.

Penfolds 2018 Bin 311 Chardonnay $49.99 – Penfolds is an iconic Australian producer who is known for its Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. But they also make white wines like this Chardonnay, which has a bit of oak influence but plenty of peach and citrus tastes and aromas.

Robert Mondavi 2018 The Reserve To Kalon $229.99 - the Mondavi family is no longer involved in this winery (now it is owned by Constellation Brands) but their wine named The Reserve To Kalon use grapes sourced from the famous To Kalon vineyard. The To Kalon fruit characteristically produces wines that have a rich mid-palate and high-quality tannins. To see a more detailed explanation of To Kalon fruit and my review of an older vintage of this wine here.

There are still tickets available for the International Festival Tastings (Thursday night and Saturday afternoon: $115/per person; Friday night: $125/per person and Saturday night: $135 per person). For more detailed information, check out their website and check out my detailed video of a guide for this year’s festival

For those attending the International Wine Festival tastings this weekend, here is my comprehensive guide to the tasting room.  If you look at pages 7 and 8, that shows you where to start (table 76).  At each table, I have highlighted what I would taste….pink is exceptional wines, yellow is really good wines.  For some, I have annotated the Wine Spectator rating.

I suggest taking breaks.  If you are taking one break, it should be between one to seven and then eight to 13.  If you are taking two breaks, I recommend one to five, six to 10 and then 11 to 13.

Until next time, happy drinking!

Tony Kwan is a lawyer by day, food and wine lover by night. Kwan is an epicurean who writes about wine, food and enjoying all that life has to offer.