The Vancouver International Wine Festival is quite simply the biggest wine event of the year here in Vancouver, Canada. Running from February 20 to March 1, this 10-day love affair with wine is where you might want to get serious with Syrah, this year’s global focus. Or make a commitment to wine study with marathon wine tasting – more than 1750 wines will be poured from 170 wineries from 14 countries.
Flirting with new grape varieties and new wine regions is also an option. Croatia is making its first appearance at the festival this year, and New York state is an alluring wine date as one of the five regional tasting stations you’ll find at the Thursday, Friday, Saturday evening festival tastings.
Last year, a Saturday afternoon tasting was added and that’s the perfect time to attend for those seeking quieter time with the wines and the winery principals.
With the spotlight on Australia this year, here are several wines that stood out at Monday evening’s wine festival preview for you to try and then buy. One of the fabulous things about the Vancouver International Wine Festival is that every wine that’s poured at the festival tastings is sold at the on-site liquor store.
WHITESIt would be a rare person who wouldn’t enjoy the Jansz bubbly from Tasmania, a haven for sparkling wine, and the Pewsey Vale Riesling from Eden Valley should definitely be on your list of wine buys. But the white that stole my heart was the Hollick Bond Road Chardonnay from cooler climate Coonawarra in South Australia. It shares some characteristics with a good Premier Cru Chablis from France – lively acidity and an extra long finish, with a touch of French oak on the nose, but not on the palate. It is smooth, rounded, and full of flavour.
Jansz Premium Cuvée NV
Blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2014
Eden Valley, Australia
A beautiful nose on this wine. Peaches and citrus fruit. Petrol more on the palate than the nose. Refreshing high acidity and concentrated flavours means this wine is great for drinking now or later. Try now and after 5, 10, 15 yeas to see how it evolves.
Hollick Bond Road Chardonnay 2011
Coonawarra, South Australia
Complex and restrained. Refreshing. Flavourful. Beautiful. Did I mention the extra long finish?
* My top white wine pick from the 27 preview wines. Would pair beautifully with seafood.
SYRAH, CABERNET SAUVIGNON
From McLaren Vale, South Australia, the Shingleback Unedited Shiraz is rich and full, with earthy notes, violets, and blue and black fruit flavours.
Perhaps it’s because I saw the opening monologue of the Golden Globes the other night when hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler played Who Would You Rather… with the male actors, but all I could think when I tried Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz was this: If wine were men, Henri is the one you choose when you want to go all night long. The finish on this beautiful wine goes on. And on. And on. He intrigues with an aroma of earth, meat and violets, with fruit atypically in the background. He pulls you in with smoothness, granular tannins, and balanced flavours. Finally, he lingers with satisfaction, yet leaves you wanting more. Yes, St. Henri was the most memorable wine Monday night.
I wanted to highlight Franklin Tate Estates Alexanders Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon because it smells and tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon. Who likes fakes? Not me. It also has a notable spicy characteristic so I am thinking a pepper steak would go well with this wine.
Shingleback Wines Unedited Shiraz 2012
McLaren Vale, South Australia
If awards and points mean anything to you, this wine has also scored in the 90s with many wine writers, and won gold medals at several wine competitions as well.
Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2009
Vineyards from Robe, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Wrattonbully, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale
97% Shiraz, 3% Cabernet
* My top red wine pick from the festival preview of 27 wines. Simply gorgeous.
Franklin Tate Estate Alexander's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Margaret River, Western Australia
Cooling ocean breezes produce complex Cabernet Sauvignon in Margaret River, it’s said. I don’t know personally; I have yet to visit the wine regions of Australia.
GO BIG OR GO HOME BLENDSIf wine were a colour, black is how I’d describe these wines grouped together as “blended beauties”. The Pirramimma ACJ blend of Shiraz, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the blackest with strong Petit Verdot taking up a almost a third of its blend.
Thorn-Clarke’s Shotfire from the Barossa Valley is a rich and smooth Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux blend. This is the casual, fun one of the three in comparison.
But the wine I would get serious with if I wanted to be bold and not go home? Yalumba’s The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2008 also from the Barossa Valley. It has restraint and elegance to balance out its boldness.
Pirramimma ACJ 2009
McLaren Vale, South Australia
63% Shiraz, 30% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec
Dense. Concentrated. Black fruit galore, but not at all jammy.
Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Quartage 2011
Barossa, South Australia
52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, 13% Malbec
Barossa has the largest plantings of old vine Shiraz, Grenache, and Mouvèdre in the world – none of which are in this wine – but this Bordeaux blend is rich and smooth.
Yalumba The Signature 2008
Barossa and Eden Valley, South Australia
56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Shiraz
* My top red blend wine from the preview. Elegance and restraint balances the bold and concentrated fruit in this wine.
For the full schedule and to buy tickets, visit the website of the Vancouver International Wine Festival. @VanWineFest @wine_australia
To follow the talk on Twitter: #viwf #savouraustralia
You can find me at @IMBIBEandSAVOUR as I’ll be tweeting when not tasting at various events. May your 10-day love affair with wine be engaging, enlightening, and entertaining.
*Prices listed as was available. All images courtesy the Vancouver International Wine Festival and Wine Australia.