Vancouver International Wine Festival revs up for France

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The 36th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival takes place February 24 to March 2, and this year, the festival’s featured country is France. In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Harry Hertscheg says that regions such as Alsace, Loire, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône, and Bordeaux will be represented at the festival.

“Really, it’s about the diversity of France,” says Hertscheg, the festival’s executive director.

“Just as you would go to an art gallery and look at art to determine what you like looking at, this is a chance to find out more about yourself and what you like tasting—not what you’re supposed to like or what you think should be your favourite wine,” Hertscheg explains. “You can drink at any time, but you can’t necessarily taste the world through wine on any given day the way you can at a wine festival.…Don’t just go to your favourite section. That’s like going into a music shop and listening to a CD that you’ve already listened to.”

With more than 780 wines from 14 countries—including nine regions of France—being poured in this year’s International Festival Tasting Room at the Vancouver Convention Centre (1055 Canada Place), figuring out where to start can be intimidating. Hertscheg’s advice: “Go to one winery from each of the French wine regions and each of the 13 other countries. What that does is it gives you a sense of the room, it gives you a sense of the wine world, and it gives you a sense of where to go back.”

He also recommends that festival attendees not waste time on lineups. “Go to a table that isn’t busy. You can get through the room faster and you can spend more time with the winemaker or owner,” he says. “The reason the wines are at the festival is they’re all really good, exciting wines.”

Besides the spotlight on France, the tasting room will also feature a bubbly tasting station, with over 110 sparkling wines from around the world—including bottles from B.C.

Two major changes are coming to this year’s festival, which includes winery dinners at Vancouver restaurants, professional seminars for wine tradespeople, and a fundraising gala. For the first time, the International Festival Tasting Room will be open during the day (on March 1) as well as in the evening from February 27 to March 1.

“This will give the public a chance to taste the wines of the world and wines from French wineries in daylight with one of the most amazing views in the world,” Hertscheg notes of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s north-facing windows.

Also, the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, which raises funds for the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival—VIWF’s new charitable beneficiary following the collapse of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company in 2012—will now take place on a weekend (February 22) at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

Says Hertscheg, “We decided that because festival week is so busy and we have the best gala of any gala in the city—a Champagne reception, nine other wines poured, five courses, and an auction—that’s the kind of thing you really need a Saturday night for.…Rest up on Sunday, and you still have seven more days to go.”

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