A Few Suggestions When You Attend VanWineFest 2024 International Tasting Room

The Vancouver International Wine Festival started today with the Bacchanalia Gala and Auction, but it really gets going starting Monday with dinners.  Throughout the week there are dinners, seminars, and the International Festival Tasting Room (IFTR).  Attending the IFTR is probably a highlight for many people as you have 147 wineries, each pouring around 5 wines, so you have the chance to try 735 different wines.  You may need to do that through a few days of IFTR attendance.  I try my best to taste as many wines, but I have a plan, and I hope you have a plan as well.

VanWineFest 2024 Tasting Room Program cover
VanWineFest 2024 Tasting Room Program cover

When I attend, I make sure that I first visit the theme country wineries, which are from Italy this year.  There are 71 different Italian wineries at the Festival this year.  Italy has many iconic wines, such as Chianti Classico, Barolo, and Amarone.  I suggest that you download the 2024 Festival Tasting Room Brochure before attending and checking through the list of Italian wineries and the wines that they will be pouring.  

Now that you have the brochure, I would look first for white and sparkling wines to taste, circle the ones of interest and then go through and mark the red wines that you want to try.  I know many of the Italian wineries, but not all of them, so I, like you are likely to find some happy surprises.  But if you need some suggested winery tables to visit, I’d offer:

  • Marchesi di Barolo
  • Botter
  • Carpineto
  • Cleto Chiarli
  • Damilano
  • Dievole
  • Fontanafredda
  • Frescobaldi
  • Castello Di Gabbiano
  • Casale del Giglio
  • Masi Agricola
  • Medici Ermete
  • Michele Chiarlo
  • Monte Del Fra
  • Pio Cesare
  • Ricasoli
  • Rocca Delle Macie
  • Ruffino
  • Vietti
  • Villa Sandi

In this list there is a mix of red, white, and sparkling wines, so hopefully something for everybody.  Before going to the event, have dinner so that any wine you drink at the tasting room will be absorbed more slowly into your system.  Also, if possible take public transit, taxi, Uber, or Lyft to go to the event and to get home.  In previous years, the Festival offers one-zone transit tickets for you to get home.  Take them up on the offer.  Be safe.

An example of a winery and their wines in the booklet.
An example of a winery and their wines in the booklet.

Next, while you may want to swallow all the wines you taste, you will not be able to sip through the whole 3 hr tasting room sessions.  I want you to get home safely.  A lot of the enjoyment from tasting a wine is the aroma and swirling the wine in your mouth, where your tastebuds are engaged, plus you get some retronasal aromas from the wine being swirled.  So sniff, swirl, and then spit the wine out.  If you really love a wine, go ahead and swallow that sip of wine.  You will get a hardcopy tasting booklet as you visit the IFTR, so you can write a brief note beside the name of the wine you are tasting.  Maybe it has a unique aroma or flavour and would be a reason for you to buy this wine.  I write copious notes.

As red wines generally have strong tannins and flavours, your tastebuds will get worn out quickly when you taste them, so I suggest tasting the sparkling and white wines first.  When you are tasting the red wines, if your tastebuds are getting worn out, a great trick is to sip a glass of sparkling wine to cleanse your palate.  Stopping for a glass of water also helps.  

When you find a wine you really love, take a picture of the wine label with your smartphone.  You may not remember the name of the wine the next day, but you will remember the picture.  I take pictures of all the wines I try.  The other reason why I suggest you take a picture of the wine bottle label is that at the back of the tasting room, just before you exit, is the Festival Liquor Store.  Flip through your phone’s pictures and pick up the wines you want to bring home.  You can buy more wines than you can carry as the Liquor store at the Festival, will ship the wines to your local BC government liquor store at no charge.  A great deal.  

Participating wineries and exhibitors
Participating wineries and exhibitors

After you had your fill of Italian wines, visit the rest of the Festival tasting room.  There are wines from BC, and 10 other countries: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, France, Greece, New Zealand, Spain, USA, and Japan (where you can try sake).  Again, if you can, check through the list of wines, circle the ones of interest and plan your time.  Page 29 of the brochure has a layout of the tables for Italy and the Rest of the World.  The table layout is numbered so you can mark a dot or an “x” on each table that you want to visit.  That can help guide your route through the rows of tables.

Lastly, don’t be a table hog.  It is fun to ask a quick question to a winery principal pouring you a glass of wine, but don’t stand at the front of the table then to taste the wine.  Move back or to the side so that other people can get their sip of wine.  

Enjoy VanWineFest 2024 and if you see me at the IFTR, a dinner, or a seminar, please feel free to say Hi to me.  Cin cin.

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.