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Column: North America's best international wine festival just around the corner

Vancouver International Wine Festival begins Monday.

The 43rd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival begins Monday and continues until Sunday, May 22nd. Although some events are sold out, there still is time to attend this annual wine and food extravaganza! But you have to hurry!

If wine dinners tickle your fancy, the Bodega Garzon Uruguay Dinner tickets are still available for the Monday night event at Hydra Estiatorio Mediterranean Cafe Bar on West Pender St. from 6:30 pm to 10 pm ($175).

While South American wines from Argentina and Chile are popular here, most BC wine enthusiasts aren’t aware of the delicious wines from Uruguay. An evening exploring Bodega Garzon’s award-winning wines with Enologist Mele Sosa explores the delights of Uruguay’s iconic winery paired with a sumptuous six-course Mediterranean dinner.

The iconic wines of Bodega Garzon keeps surprising the world and making Uruguayan history. It was chosen to be included in the Top 100 Wines 2018 of the prestigious Wine & Spirits magazine, a place reserved for the world’s finest wines with their classic Balasto. It’s a premium Bordeaux style blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Marselan.

Balasto was also in the TOP 100 ranking of Wine and Spirits magazine and Tannat Reserva 2015 was in the TOP 100 of Wine Spectator. You can enjoy both Garzon’s Balasto and Tannat along with five other premium wines at the Hydra dinner.

If you love variety, then the International Festival Tasting Lounge at the Vancouver Convention Centre is right up your alley! It’s the heart of the festival with all of the participating wineries pouring their wines. That’s 500 wines to choose from! Here’s your opportunity to discover new delights and savour old favourites. There are two tasting sessions still available: Thursday evening 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. ($109) and a Saturday afternoon matinee 2:30 to 5:00 p.m. ($109).

Pace yourself. You can’t drink all 500 wines being poured. Don’t swallow everything that’s poured into your glass. Take time to appreciate the aroma and flavour, have a taste and then pour out the rest. Or do as the wine experts do, taste and then expectorate what’s in your mouth into the spit bucket.

All Festival Tasting Lounge wines can be purchased at the BC Liquor Stores’ Festival Wine Shop in the Tasting Room. Go there early in the evening once you find some perfect wines to add to your cellar. Many of the wines are not normally available here in BC and they sell out quickly. If you live in BC your wine will be shipped free of charge to your nearest BC Liquor Store!

And remember to have a meal before you attend the festival. Unless specified as a lunch or dinner or food, most festival events involve wine, not food. And don’t drink and drive! BC Liquor Stores offers a free transit ticket at their Get Home Safe booth in the onsite Festival Wine Shop. Or assign a designated driver, take a cab, or walk.

If you prefer a more sedate evening with an organized tasting led by wine experts, consider attending a wine seminar. On Thursday, May 19th from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Grapes Unknown ($75) are for those who are tired of their same old favourites. Take a trip around the wine world on this exploration of ten wines that are hard to spell but easy to enjoy. Discover the joys of Tannat, Gran Malvaija, Refosco, Milhistorias, and more, oh my! So many wines to discover!

On Friday from 5:15 to 6:45 pm, The Global Cru ($125) has a large panel of winemakers guiding you through a deluxe tasting of a dozen crus (wines from vineyards recognized for their superior quality). Experience St. Hallett’s Old Block Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley, Louis Jadot Chambolle Musigne 1er Cru from France’s Burgundy, Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Italy’s Tuscany, Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville District, and other elegant crus.

And on Saturday from 5:15 – 6:45 pm, it’s “California here we come!” with Icons of California Cabernet ($75). California produces some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignons and their diversity is exciting to explore. Taste your way through ten different Cabs from various regions and learn about the decisions that drive their style and quality. Visit for tickets and information on these events and others that are still available. See you at the Festival!