Sips Happen column: Wine fest requires strategy

If you want to get the best bang for your buck at this week’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, it’s the Festival Tasting Room.

Simply put, it is overwhelming featuring 180 wineries pouring more than 700 wines! You don’t have the time or stamina to taste even an ounce of each wine being served.

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One strategy would be to go online and see which countries and wineries are coming. Then spend one tasting session trying your favourites. At the second tasting session be adventurous and discover countries and wineries you don’t know much about. That’s the marvelous thing about wine; you continually learn new things if you get out of your rut.

Another strategy would be to try sparkling wines and whites on the first night, reds on the second, and then try some dessert wines as well as anything else that tickles your fancy on the third.

If you want to be patriotic, celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday and focus on Canadian wines. First, sample some of the B.C. wines from 60 wineries just begging to offer you a taste of their cellar.

For the second day, try the wines of Ontario with Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir from the three main regions: Niagara, Prince Edward County, and Lake Erie. And then discover wines from six Nova Scotia wineries.

Besides tables with individual wineries, there are five Regional Tasting Stations where you taste wines from multiple wineries in a particular country or region. At the B.C. Regional Tasting Station, you will explore the diversity that makes our wines so unique. There will be eight flights of wines, each flight having three wines to taste.

For example, at the Pinot Noir flight, you might taste this varietal from Vancouver Island, the Similkameen, and the Okanagan. Other red flights include Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Bordeaux blends. You will be able to compare Chardonnays, Rieslings, Pinot Gris, and  aromatic varietals at the white flights.

At the New Zealand Tasting Station, savour the sub-regions of Marlborough and Otago with exciting Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Meanwhile at Spain’s Station let the passionate and original Spanish reds such as Tempranillo and Monastrell and tantalizing whites such as Albarino and Viura take you to the land of wine and tapas.

And if that’s not enough, be the first in your neighbourhood to try a dozen Nova Scotia wines from the Tidal Bay Appellation. Experience the passionate, artisan winemakers and the classic Nova Scotia style with lively, fresh green fruit, dynamic acidity and characteristic minerality. Maybe there will be samples of East Coast lobster and garlic butter.

Finally, if you love Aussie wines, you will be in wine heaven with the Australia Station and its Shiraz, Semillon, and other fair dinkum delights from the land of Oz.

Tickets to the Tasting Room are available for Thursday evening Feb. 16, Friday evening Feb. 17, and Saturday afternoon Feb. 18. For more, visit online at VanWineFest.ca.

Eric Hanson is a local wine expert and retired Richmond teacher

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