Vancouver International Wine Festival – showcasing the wines of Portugal and Spain

If you missed the 39th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival you might want to mark your calendar for Feb. 24 to March 4 when the 40th Vancouver International Wine Festival will take place.

After featuring the wines of Canada this year, next year’s VIWF will showcase the unique wines of Portugal and Spain. Incorporating wine grapes that are often indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, these wines almost always offer excellent value.

Although it’s too early to pinpoint exactly which Iberian wineries will be attending, it is sure to be an excellent opportunity to discover the wide range of whites, rosé and red table wines and there will undoubtedly be a righteous range of sparkling wines!

Slightly effervescent, Vinho Verde ‘green’ wine is a Portuguese white wine that originated in the historic Minho province in the far north of the country. Ideal with white fish and perfect with oysters, this is always a sassy sipper.

The Loureio, Arinto, Azal and Trajadura grape varietals used in making Lago Cerqueira Vinho Verde (273318) $14.75 has lightly floral nuances, bright flavours of dried pineapple and subtle tropical characteristics as well as almond notes and vivid acidity with a touch of chalky minerality.

Ports the sweet red dessert wines of the Douro Valley are world renowned. Every wine lover has encountered Port. Here in North America, however, Portugese dry red wines are seriously undervalued and usually offer amazing quality at very affordable prices.

A blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca, Altano Douro (841577) $15.49 is a medium to full bodied red with juicy flavors of dried cherry, raspberry and blackberry with notes of coffee, smoke, and crushed rock. The silky flavours linger in the lengthy aftertaste.

There are more than 250 indigenous Iberian grape varieties, many shared with Spain. When added to Portugese red blends Tinta Roriz known as Tempranillo in Spain and Trincadeira aka Tinta Amarela add supple, bright strawberry and raspberry notes.

In Spain and Portugal ‘Quinta’ means ‘farm’ or estate’. Many wineries in both countries are called ‘Quintas’. Since 1989, Quinta de Cabriz has been developing the wines of the Dão region. Primarily Touriga Nacional, Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada Dão (623918) $15.99 is a deep and sturdy red, underpinned by notes of cumin and coriander with dark plum and dried raspberry flavors.

Isolated from easy land access to the rest of Europe for most of recorded history by the mass of the Pyrenees mountains, Spain and Portugal were both ‘discovered’ by Greek and later Roman explorers voyaging under sail across the Mediterranean and around what we know today as the Strait of Gibraltar.

Known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo is Spain’s workhorse red wine grape. Called Cencibel in La Mancha and Valdepenas and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia, its spiritual home is in Rioja and Navarra where it makes up 70 per cent of most red blends.

A bargain priced mid-week red, Jana Tempranillo (845792) $10 is a medium bodied wine with aromas and flavours of dried red fruits, wild strawberries, blackberries and dusky plum. It is at its best and fruitiest paired with soft white cheeses and morsels of spicy sausage. Even pizza!

The origins of Verdejo are mysterious. It seems that the variety was forgotten about for hundreds of years. Fortunately, it was rediscovered and revived in the 1980s by Rioja producer Marques de Riscal.

From their own vineyards in Serrada and La Seca, planted on poor, gravelly, sandy soils producing moderate yields of superb quality grapes, Marques de Caceres Verdejo (862607) $16.49 has a fragrant bouquet of wild flowers, bright grapefruit and green apple notes with a sprinkling of rain washed rocky minerality.

Vivanco Rioja Crianza (395319) $19.99 leads with bright red cherries, violets and red fruit, with a hint of vanilla and spice. Mild hints of smoke, toasted vanilla, and spicy liquorice balance the fruit. Fermented in French oak vats and aged for 16 months in old French and American oak barrels, this rich red will only get better as it ages in the bottle.

Pick up a bottle or two to tease your taste buds while you wait for the 40th Vancouver International Wine Festival to burst onto the scene February 24 to March 4, 2018.

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