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Column: Maximizing your 2024 Vancouver International Wine Festival tasting experience

Five tips to make the best out of the annual wine tasting event in Vancouver.
This year’s theme country at VIWF 2024 is Italy and columnist Tony suggests trying wines from the Barolo region.

The Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) runs from Feb. 24 to March 3 this year. Most of the wine dinners are unfortunately sold out so if you want to have a chance to get a seat at some of these sought-after dinners next year, sign up for their email updates or follow VIWF on social media. Once these dinners are announced, they are normally sold out on the first day!

However, tickets are still available at the International Festival Tastings which occur nightly on Feb. 29, March 1 and March 2, between 7 to 10 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

A total of 147 wineries from 17 countries will each be pouring between four to five wines with this year's theme country being Italy. 

In this week’s column, I will provide some general tips to maximize your experience in the tasting room.

  1. Are you available on Thursday night? – The admission ticket on Thursday night is $10 cheaper than Friday night and $20 cheaper than Saturday night so if you are available on Feb. 29 I would consider attending on the first night. It is less crowded and you will have the first opportunity at wine offered at the on-site liquor store
  2. Purchasing wine  – One of the highlights of the tasting room is that there is an on-site liquor store where wines poured in the tasting room are available for purchase. Many of these wines are only available at the wine festival. If you taste something you like, go to the onsite liquor store right away instead of waiting until the end of the night to purchase that wine. Purchased wines can be shipped to a liquor store of your choice so you don’t have to carry the wine with you and you can go back into the tasting room and sample more wines hands-free. A common mistake many people make is to wait until the end of the night to make their purchases when the liquor store is very crowded and most of the wines are already sold out.
  3. Asking questions - Each booth has an agent pouring the wine and a principal representing the winery. If you want to know more about the winery, ask to speak to the principal. Don’t take up the agent’s time as they will be busy pouring wines and that will hold up the line. The principal has travelled from the winery and will be eager to answer your questions.
  4. Order of tasting wines – you should generally taste sparkling wines first, then red and white wines and then finish with dessert wines.  If you spend three hours at the tasting, you should spend the first 45 minutes tasting sparking wines, the next 90 minutes tasting red/white wines and the final 45 minutes tasting dessert wines. Sake is also available for tasting, which should be tasted first with the sparkling wines.
  5. Focus on flagship and unique wines - Since the theme country is Italy, focus on unique Italian grape varietals and higher value Italian wines from the Barolo and Brunello region as well as Gran Selezione Chianti wines.  Do not try wines that you are already familiar with, even if you enjoy them as, with so many wines, you want to try wines that you may not have the opportunity to try again.

For more of my tips, watch my video here. Look out for my column next week where I recommend specific wines you should taste at the festival tastings.

For more information about the festival tastings click here.  Until next time, happy drinking!

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

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