Vancouver_wine_fest_glassesNext week’s Vancouver International Wine Festival will be one of the most well attended  in the festival’s 36 years. How come it’s so popular?

There are a couple of key reasons: Arguably North America’s most important combined consumer and trade wine gathering, it’s a great opportunity for wineries to meet their customers face to face—in a thriving food and wine town which, our visitors say, year after year, has few peers.

The other drivers in 2014 are: France, as the theme region, which continues to win fans from a new generation raised on ‘new world’ wines, now looking to expand their horizons; and Champagne / Sparkling Wine as the Global Focus. Not to mention strong showings from several other regions.

While most of the minglers, dinners and panel tastings are now sold out, there are still tickets to the International Festival Tastings.

If you’re even a “part-time” wine drinker—that is: you buy wine, even occasionally—you owe it to yourself to go.  How to make the most of these tastings (which can feel quite overwhelming)?

Here’s Hired Belly’s survival guide:

  1. Once you’ve bought your ticket, spend some quality time with the online guide to develop a plan.
  2. Use the time to be adventurous and discover new wines—taste outside your comfort zone; maybe concentrate on one or two wine regions that are unfamiliar. Or, pick two or three varieties on which to focus.
  3. Start out with sparkling wine—and when your palate gets tired, taste some more.
  4. Always, no matter how much you think you like a wine, don’t forget to spit. And write down what you like—or photograph the label on your smart phone.
  5. Don’t be shy to ask questions. After all, in many cases you won’t find anyone, anywhere more knowledgable than the owner or winemaker behind the table.
  6. Be considerate: Make way for others who also want to taste. i.e. Don’t hog the table!
  7. If you buy a case of wine at the festival BC Liquor Store, they’ll ship it free to your local BCLS, for you to pick up later. So, if you do find wines you like, why not go ahead and buy them?
  8. Don’t forget to spit…

Still wondering how to start and where to go?

Here’s just a few “don’t miss” highlights from around the wine world to get you started. (And this list may grow in due course)

Domaine Charles Sparr (Alsace, France)

Muscat, Riesling Grand Cru and Cremant Rosé, poured by 10th generation owners?  What more could you want?

Maison Louis Latour (Burgundy, France)

A great cross section of wines here, including Grand Crus Corton Charlemagne and Corton Grancy

Famille Perrin (Rhone, France)

One of Rhone’s (and organic wine’s) most traveled ambassadors, Thomas Perrin pours Chateau de Beaucastel and more.

Nicolas Feuillatte (Champagne, France)

Tough to pick just one Champagne house but I’d go here for the full spectrum of styles, and a couple of vintages

Romain Duvernay (Rhone, France)

Proprietor and winemaker Romain Duvernay pours a strong offering, including the much lauded Vacqueyras 2011.

And from elsewhere…

Export Director Peter Steinhouse pours some of the most interesting Malbec you’ll ever taste.

Dominio del Plata (Mendoza, Argentina)

One of Mendoza’s most dynamic winemakers, Susana Balbo pours her wines that continue to put Argentina on the map, including Benmarco expresivo.

Exceptional, single vineyard wines, poured by V-P Stephanie Morton-Small, that prove Argentina is not only about Malbec but much, much more.

Majella (Coonawarra, Australia)

Meet the shy and retiring Brian Lynn, proprietor, who will tell you why Coonawarra makes the best Cabernet in the world, and show you some sparkling Shiraz….



Winemaker Matt Mavety continues to show you why Blue Mountain continues to set the pace in BC Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery (Okanagan, Canada)

Proprietor Ezra Cipes pours four different sparkling wines (including the award-winning Ariel 98), proving Summerhill has fully embraced this year’s global focus

• Tinhorn Creek (Okanagan, Canada)

Known for her online savvy as the founder of #BCWineChat, owner and winemaker Sandra Oldfield pours only her top tier Oldfield Collection wines to celebrate Tinhorn’s 20th anniversary.

Monte del Frá (Veneto, Italy)

Marica Bonomo, owner, offers wines from her estate that grows only indigenous native vines, including Lena di Mezzo Amarone 07.

Graham’s (Porto, Portugal)

Meet and taste with proprietor Rupert Symington, one of Port’s most knowledgable and celebrated personalities.