7 Must-Sip Wines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival

Taste the finest of Australia, Croatia, Italy and more with these seven wonders of the wine world

From the best of the Vancouver International Wine Festival comes this septet of stellar wines, each a tasty tribute to its continental origins

Fourteen countries, 170 wineries, 53 festival events! But who’s counting? The 2015 Vancouver International Wine Festival (Feb. 20 to March 1), now in its 37th year, benefits Vancouver’s favourite long-running summer festival: Bard on the Beach. And while countless glasses of grapes will be swirled, sniffed and sipped during this year’s event, we’re offering you some help deciding what to drink, thanks to a “sneak sip” event, hosted by Forage and accompanied by Head Chef Whittaker’s farm-to-table fare.

Click through to check out seven vine stars, including sparkling wine from Australia (this year’s featured region with dozens of wineries exhibiting), sherry from Spain and a white wine from Croatia, a country that’s making its debut at this year’s fest.

*All wines served in the International Festival Tasting Room are available for purchase in the on-site liquor store during the festival, some in very limited supply. The festival shop offers a free bottle check service and free shipping for B.C. residents (your wine can be shipped to your nearest BC Liquor Store).

Credit: Jansz

Premium Cuvée NV, Jansz Tasmania Winery & Vineyard (sparkling), Australia

As the Australian saying goes (well, at Jansz vineyards in Tasmania, anyway), the “méthode to the madness” is a “méthode Tasmonoise.” Play on words aside, there’s seriousness in the Jansz Premium Cuvée NV, a sparkling wine produced in a region that possesses the same cool climactic conditions as its appropriated description – Champagne. The result: a crisp and complex sparkling wine that’s set to rival its old world counterparts. In the bottle? 53% Chardonnay 44% Pinot Noir 3% Pinot Meunier culminating in a lingering citrus and nougat finish.

Prosecco DOC Rosalia NV, Giusti Wines (sparkling), Italy

Family secrets are somewhat of a cliché when it comes to Italian history, but the passion of such strong ties in winemaking are evident in the Prosecco DOC Rosalia NV. Principal Joe Giusti describes how wine, like art, is “… satisfaction of the senses,” Indeed the acidic Glera grapes grown in the Motello hills just north of Venice (stomping ground of the of the Giusti family of Conegliano) make for a pale yellow sparkler with a lemon-apple bouquet. It’s an excellent aperitif to sip while festivities get underway.

Credit: Stina Wines

Pošip 2012, Stina Wines (white), Croatia

Admittedly, an intriguing label can lure a curious imbiber. And what writer wouldn’t be intoxicated by Wordsworth’s celebrated quote: “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” In the same vein as such deeply resonating words, Pošip, a crisp and dry white wine from Croatia marks the country’s bold debut at the festival in the “bright and white” grouping. Named for the word “stone” in the Dalmatian dialect, Stina “inspires you to leave your mark, write a poem, leave a message or paint with a drop of red wine.”

Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato DOC 2011, Zenato Winery (white), Italy

“A love for the land and a close eye to tradition” are just a couple of the hallmarks owner/winemaker, Alberto Zenato, holds dear. Such ardour for tradition and terroir are apparent in this bottle of seemingly ubiquitous Trebbiano grapes that are coaxed into a complex wine with aromas of almonds and a velvety hint of peach on the palate. It’s elegance in a glass.

Portfolio 2012, Laughing Stock Vineyards (red), Canada

This Okanagan Valley favourite just celebrated its 10th birthday last October, and like any well-balanced portfolio, it has an excellent mix of stock: 45% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. Fruit forward with layers of dark berries with vanilla undertones and a long finish make this flagship wine one to hold onto for at least a decade, though you may be temped to cash out now. Says Cynthia Enns, winemaker/owner, when asked what the most important thing winemaking has taught her: “You can’t control everything, particularly Mother Nature.” We’ll drink to that.

Credit: Viña Montes

Purple Angel, Colchagua Valley 2012, Viña Montes (red), Chile

To the uninitiated, Carmenère is a little-known grape that’s enjoying a new renaissance after being on the brink of extinction in its native Bordeaux. But be warned: Chile’s signature grape isn’t for everyone. It makes for a wine that can be polarizing or pleasing with its in-your-face flavours. But it’s not over the top, thanks to the medium-bodied tannins that come from aging in French oak. With 92% Carmenère and 8% Petit Verdot grapes, this deep purple wine is superbly smoky and fruity.

Credit: Weinseller

Apóstoles Palo Cortado VORS Jerez (sherry), Spain

While sherry’s complexity is often misunderstood outside of Europe, or even southern Spain where it hails from, this 30-year-old Palo Cortado from the town of Jerez might help fight the battle against the often maligned fortified wine. The caramel-coloured sherry is not as dry as González Byass’ famed Tio Pepe fino sherry or as sweet as oloroso, but somewhere in between with a nutty off-dry flavour that’s perfect for sipping solo and dreaming of Spain’s warmer climes.