White wines, perhaps surprisingly, popped up as being the obvious topic for this week’s North Shore News column. But before we go there, let me digress:

I hesitate to think about how many Vancouver (previously Playhouse) International Wine Festivals I’ve been involved with. But I’m guessing it’s about 25, give or take a few glasses. I really like to think that there’s something unique about our festival. And, yes, I’m biased: I sit on the festival’s  selection committee and I’m also involved with a couple of other events.

It’s always hard to gauge the value of wine festivals. But let me suggest a few pointers.  I’m willing to bet that most of us discovered our interest / passion for wine at an encounter or event that was in some way associated with the festival. And I can recall meeting no end of wine world luminaries who came to Vancouver for wine festival.

Consul General of Italy Massimiliano Iacchini (l) and VIWF executive director Harry Hertscheg

Consul General of Italy Massimiliano Iacchini (l) and VIWF executive director Harry Hertscheg

The requirement that principals attend is the foundation of the wine festival’s success over the years. After all, wine really is about about people and place. And, if you’re ever lucky enough to travel to meet them on their home turf, as I have been (for quite a few), you’ll be rewarded on so many levels.

Plan ahead!

But here’s the bigger deal… If you can get yourself organised for at least one or two of the international tastings you really will have the opportunity to taste around the globe—as well as discover Italy in spades. Add to that the chance to meet and chat with the people who actually make it all happen …

Plus, in case you didn’t know, you can order your wines and have them shipped free of charge to your local liquor store.

But meanwhile, back to those Old World white wines …


The Vancouver International Wine Festival is already on the horizon, in fact it’s coming up a whole lot faster than you think.

This year’s event—the 38th —puts Italy firmly in the spotlight. That adds up to a perfect opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the remarkable variety of Italian wines from across its 20 contrasting  regions, and with no shortage of Italian food, of course.

This week, a special “Festival Taste” offered a compelling preview of what’s in store—not only from Italy but from wine producing countries around the world, underscoring that this really is a globally themed event.


Italy: not only about red wines…

While the emphasis will be, as it should, quite naturally, on Italy’s vast array of predominantly red varieties, the “Festival Taste” selection included a number of intriguing Old World white wines, which also merit attention.

In fact, if there’s one thing to keep in mind when deciding which events to book, or what to taste at the wine festival, it should be to expand your wine horizons; to reach out and try something different, which you possibly might not have tasted before.

For full details on events—and to book (many are already selling out), go to: VanWineFest.ca


Whites to watch for …

Here are three whites (all of which fly in the face of their more red-wine inclined places of origin). They’re well worth tracking down, before, during or after the festival, which will do just that: Broaden your palate—and maybe re-shape the way you approach your every-day white wine choices.

Try this delicious, Italian White variety for a change

Try this delicious, Italian white variety for a change

• Paulo Conterno Langhe Arneis a Val 2014

Truly unique, this floral toned, crisp white drop (Arneis is the variety) is not what you’d expect from Piedmont but it rewards with floral notes on top followed by fruity notes with well balanced acidity, a clean, refreshing palate with stony hints to a precise finish. 91 pts. Think oysters; … and more oysters. Find it at Taste Italia, February 27.

Not your uncle's Retsina. In fact, not even close.

Not your uncle’s Retsina. In fact, not even close

• Tsantali Santorini Assyrtiko 2015

If it’s all Greek to you, don’t worry: Tsantali is the producer; Santorini the place it’s from and Assyrtiko is the grape—one of the oldest known; and indigenous to Santorini’s volcanic surroundings and soils—which is just what comes through in its mineral and citrus toned palate. Crisp and very dry, it’s a shoo-in for our local shellfish, from oysters to mussels and more. 90 pts. Find it in the Acura Tasting Room, Feb 25-27.

IMG_5460• Famille Perrin Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf de Pape Blanc 2014.

Yes, it’s a rare-ish breed, a white Chateauneuf de Pape from just seven organically grown hectares on the rocky, sandstone and alluvial terrain of the former riverbed of the Rhone. Part of this blend of Roussanne (80%), Grenache Blanc and 5% other whites, including Bourbelanc, sees limited time in oak, which adds depth and complexity. Some creamy hints on top with floral and orchard notes, followed by stone fruit and quiet vanilla hints on the beautifully balanced and textured palate. 91 points. Taste it, most likely only, at the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner and Auction…


Belly’s Budget Best

Viña Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2014

Classic, textbook Sauv. Blanc from the pioneer of this maritime influenced, up and coming Chilean region—with a dollop of gooseberry on top, followed by juicy acidity, citrus and a touch of herbaceousness with clean flavous and good length. 90 pts. BCLS on limited time offer $11.99 Find it at Cool Climate, Cool View, Feb 27. Deal!


This material appears in my North Shore News column