Navigating the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

This year's Vancouver Playouse International Wine Festival features 181 wineries from 15 countries. Here are the highlights you won't want to miss

Credit: Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

The International Festival Tasting is one of the most popular events at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, and this year features wineries from 15 different countries, including Chile, the festival’s featured wine region

The 34th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival runs February 27 to March 4, 2012 and features dozens of events celebrating over 180 wineries from around the world

There’s something for everyone at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, from the wine lover to the connoisseur. This year’s festival will see about 25,000 attendees participate in 64 events over 7 days, and offer the chance to sample 1,700 wines from 181 wineries representing 15 different countries.

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival began in 1979 as a fundraiser for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company. During its first year there was only one participating winery, Napa’s Robert Mondavi, and about 1,000 attendees.

Now, celebrating its 34th year, it has become known as one of the world’s premier wine festivals and attracts some of the biggest names in winemaking, as well as serious collectors, wine industry professionals, wine aficionados, and those just looking to learn a little more about the wonderfully delicious world of wine.

Events include the Bacchanalia gala dinner and auction, wine minglers, wine and food pairings in the form of brunches, lunches and dinners, stand-up wine and food grazing events, wine tastings, and wine seminars. 

Executive director, Harry Hertscheg, spoke about the festival and what attendees, especially first timers, could expect from this year’s event.

Wine Festival Focus

The festival has a featured wine region and global focus each year. What can you tell us about this year’s region, Chile? And what can you tell us about this year’s global focus, Cabernet(s)?

This year’s theme region, Chile, has a unique combination of diverse geographical areas, and its Mediterranean climate makes it ideal for eco-friendly winegrowing.

Chile produces a wide variety of wine styles: from crisp Sauvignon Blanc, lush Chardonnay, zippy Riesling and fragrant Viognier to vibrant Pinot Noir, juicy Merlot, spicy Syrah, classic Cabernet Sauvignon, and their very own Carmenere [Chile’s signature grape].

Chile is the world’s eighth largest wine producer with 1.5 billion consumers per year. The vision of the Chilean wine industry is to become the number one producer of sustainable and diverse premium wines by 2020. At this year’s International Festival Tasting, 35 Chilean wineries will be participating in a special section of the Tasting Room.

This year’s global focus, Cabernet(s), have distinctive characteristics and class unique in the wine world. At the highest level of quality, Cabernet Sauvignon is a primary varietal in the world’s most sought-after wines. Cabernet is as likely to be bottled on its own as in a blend – it excels in both formats.

There will be more than 185 different Cabernet(s) in the “Life is a Cabernet” Tasting Station at this year’s International Festival Tasting.

What’s new for this year’s festival?

Over 40 of the participating wineries have never been to the festival before, and our International Festival Tasting Room has increased in size from last year’s 39,000 square feet to this year’s 54,000 square feet.

Most importantly, nearly all of the 1,700 wines selected for this year’s 64 events are not the same wines selected for last year’s events.

Also, we have a wine event this year in the form of a cooking class for people who love to enjoy wine while they cook.

What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?

This year I am most excited to discover wines from the 14 wine valleys of Chile. A land of geographical contrasts, it is a true viticultural Eden with world-class wines of unique character and personality.

What to See and Do at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

What advice do you have for the first-time attendee when deciding which events to attend (aside from those already sold out)?

For an excellent introduction to the wine world, first-time attendees should go to the International Festival Tasting at the Vancouver Convention Centre West, running March 1, 2 and 3, from 7pm to 10pm.

Can you share a little wine tasting 101 for the novice International Festival Tasting attendee?

The heart of the Vancouver International Playhouse Wine Festival, the International Festival Tasting, can seem quite overwhelming at first, but I suggest starting by visiting some of the seven tasting stations:

  • Chile
  • New Zealand
  • South of France
  • Australia
  • British Columbia
  • South Africa
  • “Life is a Cabernet”

Next, visit one winery table from each of the 15 countries, starting with Chile and ending with Chile – you will end up where you started because of the layout of the hall.

Make sure to ask the person pouring your wine what grape and what region the wine is made from. Even if you choose your winery tables randomly, you will have a diverse and enlightening wine tasting experience. Most importantly, you will learn for yourself what kind of wines you like best.

With the souvenir program, you receive information about all of the participating wineries and a list of the wines poured, including a space to note which ones you liked best, and which wines you would like to purchase.

Be sure to take advantage of the BC Liquor Stores’ onsite festival wine shop, which carries all of the wines poured in the Tasting Room.

Check out the signs located throughout the tasting room for tips on tasting etiquette. Don’t feel you have to finish the whole glass because you can dump any remaining wine into the dump buckets on every table.

The International Festival Tasting is a wine tasting event, not a wine-drinking event. Nevertheless, do not drive to or from the festival. Please take advantage of the complimentary transit tickets available at the BC Liquor Store “Get Home Safe” booth when you leave.

For more information about the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, visit their website.