What’s New at the Vancouver Wine Fest

Vancouver International Wine Festival | BCBusiness

Wine Festival executive director Harry Hertscheg shares what’s new at the annual event

Now in its 36th year, the Vancouver International Wine Festival will be taking over the Vancouver Convention Centre from February 24 to March 2, bringing with it 1,750 different wines from 178 global wineries. Of the 178 wineries, 52 will hail from France, this year’s theme country. “It’s really the French regions that are the theme,” says Vancouver International Wine Festival executive director Harry Hertscheg, adding that the styles of wine vary from region to region.

France was the theme in 2006, and bringing it back this year was a matter of willingness on behalf of the country’s wine producers. “It’s something that the theme region or country needs to be interested in, because it’s a significant investment,” says Hertscheg. “There are expectations of return on investments, and there’s a track record where theme regions and countries get an increase in sales in the B.C. marketplace of around over 20 per cent. So it’s an important business decision on our part, but as important and actually more important for the theme country to put that kind of investment in.”

Harry Hertscheg’s strategy to best enjoy the tasting room

1. Loire
2. Alsace
3. Burgundy
4. Rhône
5. South of France
6. Bordeaux
7. Southwest France
8. Champagne (Keep an eye out for a table that’s not busy. Don’t go there right at the start, as there is a lot of bubbly in some of the other French wine region sections.)

The French producers will be categorizing and colour-coding their wines by six styles: wines of character, surprising wines, subtle wines, lively wines, sensual wines and party wines. Attendees—and especially wine newbies—can take a quiz to determine and easily find their wine style.

In addition to the theme country, the team behind the wine festival selects a global focus to shed light on a particular style of wine. This year’s focus is sparkling wine, which Hertscheg says complements the French theme, because every wine region in France produces sparkling wine. “We pick a category that we think is slightly misunderstood and provide an opportunity for the marketplace,” he says. “Because it’s our focus this year, there’s over a hundred sparkling wines in the tasting room. It just gives people an opportunity to be more familiar and understand how accessible sparkling wines are.”

Several B.C. wineries will be bringing some bubbly to the table, and Hertscheg recommends watching out for sparkling wines by Blue Mountain Winery, Steller’s Jay, Haywire, Stoneboat Vineyards and Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

New for 2014 is the addition of a Saturday afternoon tasting session. The tasting sessions have traditionally been held over three consecutive evenings, but Hertscheg says the inaugural daytime event will offer shorter lineups, more time to chat with the wine producers, plus (hopefully) clear views looking out over Coal Harbour.

“Part of the experience of coming to the wine festival is also like going to a music festival—you’re trying to open yourself to experience new things,” adds Hertscheg.