Column: Now’s the time to make plans to attend Canada’s best wine festival

It’s only the first week of 2020, but if you want to learn more about the enchanting world of wine at Canada’s best wine event, start your planning now! The 42nd Vancouver International Wine Festival returns for an eight-day celebration of wine and food from Feb. 22 to Mar. 1 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and other venues around Metro Vancouver. The 2020 festival features 163 wineries participating in 57 events.

If you can attend only one of the festival’s events, head to the International Festival Tasting Room. The Tasting Room at the Vancouver Convention Centre is the heart of the festival, where all 163 participating wineries and their principals gather to pour their select wines. Discover exciting new wines, or return to your favourites, sipping from premium wine glasses.

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This year, take a wine tour of France in the Tasting Room, exploring 42 wineries from 10 regions. Discover how the diverse terroir of Alsace, Champagne, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Languedoc, Loire, Provence, Rhône, and the South West create distinct, iconic wines.

The room will also feature Regional Tasting Stations from France, Emilia-Romagna, Germany, New Zealand, and South Africa, as wine and food-related exhibitors.

Each winery will be represented in the room by a principal (winemaker, owner, or executive) to share their wines and knowledge. You’re quite likely to find that the person serving your wine has their name on the bottle.

All wines served at the winery tables are available for purchase at the BC Liquor Stores Festival Wine Shop in the Tasting Room. When you discover a wine that you want to enjoy at home, don’t wait until the end of the session to buy it as it might be sold out – put it in the handy bottle check, and then continue your tasting session.

When you’re ready to leave, check out your wines. If you live in B.C., your wine can be shipped free of charge to your nearest BC Liquor Store.

Here's a heads up! This is a wine tasting, not a food event. Be sure to have a meal before you arrive. That said, food samples are available to enhance your tasting experience.

Be sure to pace yourself. Have a game plan – you can’t taste every wine in the room. And don’t swallow everything that’s poured into your glass. Have a taste and then make use of the spit buckets at every table, by spitting or pouring out the rest. If you do want to taste a lot of wines, there are four tasting sessions over three days: Thursday, February 27, 7-10 p.m. for $95 (the best night to attend because it’s the least crowded!); Friday, February 28, 7-10 p.m. for $105; Saturday, February 29, 2:30-5 p.m. for $95; Saturday, February 29, 7-10 p.m. for $115.

Please don’t wear fragrance! All the noses and palates in the room will thank you. And don’t even think about bringing your car or bike. Take transit. BC Liquor Stores offers a free transit ticket at their Get Home Safe booth in the onsite Festival Wine Shop.

Eric Hanson is a Richmond resident and a huge fan of the Vancouver International Wine Festival.

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