Errazuriz home estate. Taken from 'above the cactus line', Don Maximiano vineyard. We chose this shot because it's very much emblematic of Chile—and of a great and storied producer. Tim Pawsey photo

We’re still scrambling to catch up on myriad Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival experiences (maybe it’s time to come up with a niftier handle?) that we’ll distill down and share in coming weeks. Out of 30,000 bottles, we figure did more than our share of tasting.

The big news (and worst kept secret) announced at the end of the show is that Chile will be next year’s VPIWF theme region. We were so busy checking out brand new Hapa Umi, just across the from the Convention Centre—more on that soon—that we missed the fun, flash mob announcement by Wines of Chile, staged for the folks heading into the International Tasting. Check it out!

However, we made sure not to miss out on the ‘breakfast’ Pisco sours at the formal press announcement! Next year the entire festival heads back to the new Vancouver Convention Centre West—and word is that, for the first time, the feature region will be situated with the windows (and stunning harbour-mountain views) as the backdrop. It’s about time! Now if we can just get the rest of the tasting room back to its alphabetical order, all will be fine…

Just as Spain wowed this year with its sheer variety of styles, we’re convinced consumers will be blown away by the transformation wrought by Chilean winemakers in every aspect, compared to the last time that Chile was the theme, in 2003.

Over the years Chile has worked hard to change its image from first being a bulk producer (waaay back in the 80s—when most of the wines came from the Central Valley, when it was then much like a southern version of Lodi) to its very modern persona now.

Today the Chilean industry is anything but homogenous, with contrasting regions showing their individual strengths. In the same way Australia has succeeded in making wine drinkers aware of its quite differing origins, Chile now focuses on specific areas such as San Antonio, Casablance, Bio Bio, Elqui and Limari increasingly showing up alongside the likes of long-established Maipo and Maule.

You can get a great sneak preview of what’s to come next year, when Wines of Chile rolls into town this coming June 17th, with a full day of tastings, including being front and centre at BCHF’s Dish ‘n Dazzle fundraiser—guaranteed to kick your summer off in style!

Until then, here’s a great drop (widely available in Canada) from one of our favourite Chilean producers:

Cousino Macul Antiguas Reserva 2008 (Maipo)

Ripe, plummy aromas, complex layers of black fruit and cassis notes with balanced oak, juicy acidity and good structure. Think barbecued anything but especially rib-eye. BCLS $21.99

(l-r)Julian Scholefield (Wines of Chile Western Canada), Vivian Alaluf (North & Latin America Manager, Wines of Chile) and Harry Hertscheg, Executive Director VPIWF announce Chile as next year's theme. Tim Pawsey photo.