3rd Annual Victoria Wine Festival, 23rd – 24th September

The Victoria Wine Festival is back for its third year on 23rd and 24th September at the Parkside Hotel and Spa on Humboldt Street. With three public tastings and four seminars, there’s more to taste than ever.

Whether you’ve just started to explore wine or are a seasoned wineaux, there are things to discover. Dave Bain, the festival organizer, has set out to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

The three public tastings (Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening) take place at the Parkside hotel in a unique combination of indoor and outdoor space. With close to 300 wines and a selection of nibbles, it’s a great opportunity to try new wines without investing in whole bottles. If you do find something you love, you can purchase it at the pop-up liquor store, operated by Vessel Liquor Store.

This year, there are more principals – people directly associated with a winery – in attendance. They know what’s going on and are always ready to tell the stories behind their wines. Having worked at a few festivals, I know questions are a welcome break from pouring – so ASK!

There’s an increased focus on exploring specific regions. In the tasting room, there’s a table showcasing Bordeaux wines where local sommeliers will introduce the more affordable side of this iconic region. Two of the seminars also pick up regional themes: one focusing on South Africa and a second on Argentina.

There are two more seminars: cheese and wine pairing; and one that discusses how to choose and buy wine. All the seminars will be held in the top floor room at the Parkside, with views of the city providing a scenic a background.

If things get exhausting, attendees can escape to the new lounge” to relax and enjoy their wine. The lounge is open before, during and after the main tastings at no additional cost.

Tickets can be bought online at www.viwf.com In addition to the tickets for individual events, there’s a new Super Pass, which gives access to all the public tastings and seminars. The Parkside Hotel is also offering special packages for Festival attendees.


Beginners Guide to Choosing Wine

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water”, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642, Italian astronomer).

It may just be fermented grape juice, but wine has the power to evoke passionate declarations and comes with its own language. For the new consumer, it’s confusing and daunting. Here’s a stripped down guide to wine.

It starts with the grape variety. The grapes for wine aren’t the same as found at the grocery, but they’re related. It’s an extended family, with lots of different types (or varieties). Each variety tastes different and that shows in the wine.

The white varieties (green grapes) make white wine and can be divided into two main groups: aromatics and others.

The aromatic varieties like sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer, riesling and muscat give wines that have pronounced aromas. Each is different, but they are never shy. Try a New Zealand sauvignon blanc to smell the typical grass, lime and white flowers. Then try a gewurztraminer. It’s equally as pronounced, but totally different – with roses, spices and tropical fruits.

The “others” are the more subdued varieties. Chardonnay and chenin fall into this category. They are naturally more subtle and region and winemaking often play a more important role in how they taste in the glass.

Black grapes make red and rose wines. The varietal fruit profiles can be categorized as black fruit (cabernet sauvignon, syrah), red fruit (pinot noir, grenache) or somewhere in between (merlot). Here, the skin thickness of the berry also makes a huge difference. Thick-skinned varieties (cabernet sauvignon) make deeply coloured and tannic wines. Thin-skinned varieties (pinot noir) make lighter and less tannic wines. To taste what tannins are, peel a table grape and chew on the skin – the furriness you feel is the tannins. Tannins add “structure” and help a wine age. Try a pinot noir, a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon. Look, and see how much lighter the pinot is. Smell, and notice how the fruit shifts from red berries, to plums to blackberries. Taste, and watch the furriness in your mouth – it should increase as you move through the wines.

Once you’ve found a variety you like, find examples from different places and see how location matters. Grapes grown in hotter climates will be riper and that shows in the fruit profile, higher alcohol, a fuller body and less acid. Wines from cooler regions will be lower in alcohol, lighter bodied and higher in acidity. “Acid” sounds off-putting, but think zesty and fresh – like lemons. A great example of how climate affects wine is the difference between a syrah from the cooler Northern Rhone and a shiraz from warmer Australia.

Finally, explore the effects of winemaking. Try wines with different sweetness levels – do you prefer bone-dry or lusciously sweet? What about the spicy notes that oak brings to a wine? Compare an oaked chardonnay with an unoaked version. Add in fully sparking chardonnay to see if you like bubbles.

The tasting room at the Festival will have 300 wines. Explore. Think about the wines that you like. Is it the aromatics, the full body, the crispness, the hint of sweetness? Ask the person pouring what they would suggest that’s similar. Have fun, try new things and ask questions.

By Sharon McLean


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