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Column: How to navigate the Vancouver International Wine Festival like a pro

The upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival Tastings is a huge event with over 150 wineries pouring samples of their wines from Feb. 27 to 29 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Vancouver Wine Festival
Tony Kwan (second from the left) enjoying the International Wine Festival Tasting with friends. Photo submitted

The upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival Tastings is a huge event with over 150 wineries pouring samples of their wines from Feb. 27 to 29 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.  With so many wines and such a limited time frame, how do you navigate this event?  Here are some of my tips:

1. Get settled early – the tasting will cost around $100, so you want to get your money’s worth.  I suggest going downtown early for a quick dinner before the tasting. The wine festival will have bread and cheese, but you want to focus your time on wine tasting. It is also helpful to have food in your system before you start drinking.  I suggest getting there right when it starts or 10 minutes after the start time.  Three hours of wine tasting is plenty of time, and if you go early, you will only end up lining up when you could be relaxing somewhere else.  

2. Limit your tasting and be selective – I know this sounds counterintuitive for a wine tasting, but realistically, after around 15 samples, most people can’t tell the difference between the wines anymore.  I suggest breaking up the night into three one-hour sessions.  I try to sample a maximum of 10 to 15 wines during each session.  After each session, I take a five-minute break to get some water or go to the bathroom.  Many people rush through a wine festival and after an hour, they are ready to go.  But during the last hour of the wine festival, line-ups are much shorter so you can actually sample more wines than at the beginning. 

3. Have a plan –  try to get as much information as possible about which wines will be served at the festival.  Have a plan about which wines or types of wines you want to try, instead of just sampling at whichever table is closest or has the shortest line. 

4. Go back for seconds – each winery only pours a small sample of each wine, but if you like something, there is no rule that says you can’t go back to the same table again!  In fact, most wineries appreciate knowing you enjoyed their wine.  With a little friendliness, you might get a bit bigger pour the second time!

5. Take notes – you could go to the festival tasting, drink for a few hours and have great time.  But you may not remember a single wine that you tasted.  It’d still be a great night out, but many people taste wines they loved but then forget to write down the names of their favourites.  All you need to do if there is a wine you like is take a photo of the label with your smartphone and jot down a few notes to remind yourself why you liked the wine. 

The Vancouver International Wine Festival is one of the largest festivals in North America, so if you have the time and money, you should take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to sample a wide variety of wines.

In each article, I make a wine recommendation.  This week, I am recommending Wines of Substance 2017 Cs - Washington Cab.   This is a new winery with a minimalist label, but the wine is a great value at $25.99.  It really packs a punch, and if you like Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a great expression of that grape variety. It is a very tannic wine, bursting with fruit, which is not at all subtle.

Until next time, happy drinking!

Tony Kwan is the Richmond News' new columnist. 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.