France will be the regional theme of the 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival

The 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will take place in just six months. From Feb. 22 – March 1, 2020, VanWineFest will be pulling corks and proclaiming its slogan: “The Wine World is Here!”

Next year, for the fourth time, France will be VanWineFest’s theme country. Details on which wineries will be attending have yet to be released but with so many regions to choose from there are numerous exciting possibilities. There will undoubtedly be wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley but there are bound to be surprises.

From France’s south western region of Gascony, relatively obscure and remarkably affordable, Domaine de Grachies Côtes de Gascogne IGP $11.99 mixes the zingy characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc with a tropical fruit medley of flavours – melon, mango and papaya. Mixing Colombard, Ugni-Blanc and Gros Manseng with Sauvignon Blanc obviously produces excellent white wines.

Long before Argentina reinvented Malbec, winemakers in Cahors, where the grape is known as Côt, Côt Noir or Auxerrois, have been making their dark red wines for centuries. Domaine du Cause Cahors Malbec $22.98 is dark and dusky until it opens up and shows off that sweet, jammy blackberry fruit over a base of sturdy ripe tannins.

In keeping with the emerging Rosé Every Day movement, beyond the regional focus on France the 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will also feature Rosés from around the world. Start your research now by chasing down unusual or affordable examples. Then pick one of the many excellent British Columbia Rosés.

Vinos Santa Ema has been making wine in Chile’s Maipo Valley for more than 60 years. Santa Ema ‘Select Terroir’ Reserva Rosé $14.98 is an exceptionally affordable blend of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 percent Syrah. The first sniff and sip is all fresh sliced peaches and dried apricots, then strawberry and rhubarb notes appear as it warms in the glass.

In the Okanagan Valley’s Naramata Judy Kingston and her daughter Katie O’Kell run Serendipity Winery. An eclectic blend of grapes that included Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot and Schönburger – according to consulting winemaker Brad Cooper – give Serendipity Rosé 2016 $24.99 quite a full throttle medley of aromas and flavours. Strawberry slides through cranberry into pomegranate and peaches with a nice earthy sprinkling of white pepper in the finish of this dry Rosé.

The third focus of the 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will be on “Cru” wines – from vineyards recognized for their superior quality. While the term “Cru” is most often used in the French classification system, the “Cru” concept can apply to any vineyard or group of vineyards recognized for their superior quality. Outside of France ‘New World’ equivalents are often designated ‘Single Vineyard’.

In the French scheme of quality the terms Premier Cru, Grand Cru are generally translated into English as First Growth, Great Growth. Specific vineyards have been granted these exalted designations because the wines made from the grapes grown there have proved exceptional, repeatedly, over many years.

Confusingly, wines designated Cru Bourgeois – a classification of fine but lesser wines, many from France’s Médoc, that didn’t make the cut in the original, historical 1855 assessment – are judged and approved on a year by year basis. Controversy has plagued the use of the term ‘Cru Bourgeois ’ which was revised in 2003, banned in 2007 and reinstated in 2010.

A typical and traditional Médoc Cru Bourgeois, Château La Chandellière 2015 $30.00 is a blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. Already approachable, attractive cherry, plum, raspberry and blackcurrant flavours slide smoothly into a twist of spicy liquorice and dark chocolate in the finish.

Outside of France, single vineyard wines follow the “Cru” concept that specific exceptional vineyard sites can consistently produce perfectly ripe grapes that, in turn, produce extraordinary wines.

An extraordinary single vineyard wine from and exceptional site, Sunrock Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 $30.49 is lusciously fruity, oozing black cherry and blackcurrant aromas and flavours. Wisps of cedar, dark chocolate, sage and vanilla emerge as this complex and silky wine opens up in the glass. There’s nothing ‘Bourgeois’ about this particular ‘Cru’…

Plan now if you are thinking of attending the 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival. The International Festival Tastings will take place February 27, 28, 29.

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