Wine Fest – First Report

strong>IMG_1721VIWF – 1st Report

11:56pm. Wednesday.

I can’t really title this Day 1 or Day 2 or even Day 3 of VIWF week. Because the entire week flows together like the ocean currents, ebbing and flowing, cresting and falling. What day is it? I can’t remember. There’s no room left for minutia. My iPhone keeps my schedule and sends me wolf whistles when it’s time to move from one seminar to the next lunch to the following masterclass to the 4th principal interview to the private business meeting to a wine dinner with a dozen (?) bottles of beautiful wines divided by half that in beautiful people. I have ducked, graciously, mind, 3 post-dinner invitations to try such and such wine or this or that cocktail or chat up so and so producer so I could hike back to my hotel, take off my shoes for the first time in 16 hours, and write a column about the wine festival, whichever day it might be.

My wine fest actually began a few days ago, with the black tie Bacchanalia Gala, moved to Saturday night for the first time. Seems like the change to the weekend was a profitable one, with more than $60,000 raised through silent and live auctions to benefit Bard on the Beach. With a Taittinger Champagne reception to start, the crowd’s mood moved swiftly to jubilant as we were serenaded by opera singers and treated to a multicourse, multiwine menu at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Befitting the sparkling night and in a spontaneous twist, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, owner of Château Angelus, added a last-minute auction item: dinner and stay at the winery’s chateau, which sold for close to $10,000.


After a brief respite, my VIWF picked up again Tuesday with an off-the-grid Pure Chablis dinner. Not an officially scheduled wine fest event, but utilizing the opportunity of France as theme region, Pure Chablis hosted a wine competition where three young, driven Vancouver sommeliers had to pair a Chablis wine of their choosing to a three course menu, prepared by Chef Jefferson Alvarez at Secret Location. The somms had a budget and the written menu; the rest was up to them. The crowd of diners then experienced each somm’s wine picks with each course – poured blindly – and voted via electronic clicker which pairings we preferred. It was fantastic to see Brooke Delves (Wildebeest), Jason Yamasaki (Chambar) and Roger Maniwa (Hawksworth) dive into their research and roles. The selected wines were all very different, and passing judgement was tricky and in many cases, personal. In the end, majority ruled that Roger was the pairing champion, and he was awarded a lovely magnum of Chablis for his prowress, but all us lucky guests were the real winners, tasting 10 different, distinct and delicious wines over the course of the evening.

From there it was off to the France Bubbly Party, at Ginger 62. A sell out, and with good reason (you had me at France. Bubbly. Party.) Nine wine producers from across France served the clubby crowd 18 sparkling wines, including Champagnes and Crémants. The room was full but not packed, food was tasty and well spaced. How many oysters, Fourbourg macarons and bowls of bacon caramel popcorn can I consume? Like the days, countless. DJ Tyson Villeneuve kept the energy high, while the photo booth provided an outlet for said energy. Not that I had too much left – I had to conserve for the next morning.



Tuesday morning

IMG_1712The first trade masterclass of the festival, moderated by a TRUE master himself, John Szabo MS. John led our crowd of geeks wine professionals on a journey to discover The Birthplace of Terroir, educating us to wine’s history in France, the roles of the Benedictine and then Cistercian monks in propagating vines and wine knowledge, site and soil studies. He argued, I believe successfully, that terroir is not just about the dirt, but also about the people. It must be studied and transmitted, shared and communicated with a quality goal. A panel of principals from across France spoke passionately about their own wine’s terroir and how it was expressed in the glass today. Most importantly, they stressed that terroir has very little to do with winemakers, but mainly to do with the grapes, the vines and the soils in which they are elevated, nurtured and raised. Of particular poignancy to me was the Gerard Bertrand Boutenac La Forge 2011, from Corbieres, Languedoc. This wine reminded me of the innocent ingénue at the ball; the one imbued with all the grace and beauty and delicacy, without even knowing it. Charming in its honesty, this blend of 100 year old Carignan and 30 year old Syrah showed alluring, fragrant strawberries, raspberries, perfume and spice aromas, carried through into wild herbs, truffle and a slice of iron-fringed tannins. Pretty, intriguing and intoxicatingly fresh, if this doesn’t sell you on the terroir of the wild, Mediterranean, picturesque and slightly rustic Corbieres, I can’t help you.


After a quick (vite, vite) tea break, it was back for a second masterclass, this one moderated by the busiest wine professional at the festival, Anthony Gismondi. Gismondi graciously introduced each visiting principal as they explored the question What’s Trending in France. Though numbers show that BC sales are trending downwards, each individual region and each panelist had a different viewpoint on how their person region was growing, positively, forward. Trends identified included biodynamics, rosés, Co-Ops, Sans Sulfites (sulfite-free wines), China and the Asian market, and the varied panelists spoke passionately about their wines and the motion behind them. The highlight was hearing Michel Chapoutier, who arrived directly from the airport and a flight from the south of France, 1/3 of the way through the presentation. M. Chapoutier, who needs no introduction in the wine world, spoke eloquently and purely about his aims in making single-site, unadulterated wines. “I want the best picture of climate, vintage, terroir. Not necessarily the best wine, but the best expression I can capture.” If this honest, reflective, humble nature in the wines is what’s trending in France, I’m fully on board.

It’s now 1am on Thursday and I have the opening plenary in 8 hours. Time to sleep, shower, caffeinate and return for another big day, most of which will be spent on the tasting room floor. It’s a big week with much to learn and more to taste. But for now, sleep.



Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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