Vancouver festival showcases the wines of Italy

Wine Wise with Doug Sloan

Tickets are now on sale for all public events at the Vancouver International Wine Festival which takes place from February 20-28. Check online at for details.

This year the theme country is Italy and visiting winemakers, owners and other winery principals will feature 60 wineries from 9 regions pouring 240 wines. In the Acura Tasting Room at the Vancouver Convention Centre an additional 96 participating wineries from 13 other countries will be pouring – that’s more than 700 wines for your tasting pleasure!

In ancient times, what we now call Italy was commonly called Oenotria – “land of wine” – because of the wide range of grape varieties and the countless acres dedicated to vines.  From the rise of the Estrucans, through the remarkable growth of the Roman Empire, Italy became a trading hub at the heart of the Mediterranean for what would become the first globally traded product – wine.

Nespolino Rosso Rubicone IGT (520833) $10.49 is a masterful blend of 70 per cent Sangiovese and 30 per cent Merlot. There are no excuses for not having a few bottles of this affordable medium-bodied red on hand. Aromas and flavours of cherries and plums predominate, without overpowering the subtle notes of tree bark and fresh-stropped leather that add interest to the finish.

Italy’s prominence in the wine trade has continued for centuries, always closely tied to their creative cuisine.  With stunning reds like Chianti, Amarone, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino Italy continues to provide some of the finest and most affordable wining and dining experiences.

Ruffino Orvieto Classico DOC (31062) $11.45 is a pale lemon yellow wine from Umbria made from a handful of different types of white grapes dominated by Grechetto, Procanico and Verdello. Fresh sliced apple and pear aromas and flavours ride a “chewy” base of chalky, nutty almond and wispy anise.

There are not a lot of Italian organic wines currently available here in British Columbia.  Villa Teresa’s grapes are grown without using chemical agents, synthetic fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides or genetically modified organisms.

Newly arrived in British Columbia – and a surprisingly rich mouthful! – Villa Teresa Chardonnay Frizzante (744383) $16.90 is an addition to Villa Teresa’s line-up of sparkling wines offering more pear and honeyed peach fruitiness than their phenomenonally succesful Prosecco.  Bright and sassy up front, it develops an apple pie richness opening up on the tongue.

Forever reinventing itself, today‚Äôs Italian wine industry blends innovation with tradition.  The International Organization of Vine and Wine has estimated Italy’s wine production from the 2015 harvest at 48.9 million hectoliters, slightly ahead of France’s 47.4 million. Every year, one in fifty Italians is involved somehow with the grape harvest.

Perfect for wine and food pairing, a bright and medium bodied red, Gabbiano Chiant Classico DOCG (25163) $20.15 opens with aromas of ripe berry, tobacco, and a hint of cedar. The first sip is all crushed black cherry, licorice and white pepper framed by ripe tannins and a finish with refreshing acidity.

Each of the 155 wineries from the 14 participating countries will send a high-level representative to the Festival to present their wines. As VIWF executive director Harry Hertscheg said recently “Festivalgoers will have unique access to the people directly responsible for the wines they are tasting, and can connect with leading figures in Italy’s extraordinary wine and food culture.”

A very modern Ripasso, brimming with ripe “New World” fruit character, Bolla Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore (689364) $23.15 blends 70 per cent Corvina and 30 per cent Rondinella to produce a wine with intensely perfumed dark berry fruit and a rich earthy finish of savoury herbs and wild berries.

Although this year’s VIWF showcases the wines of Italy, there will be numerous wines from 13 other countries also being poured.  Plan to attend and decide for yourself whether any of them match the finest Italian wines currently available!  And some are very, very fine indeed.

Rated at an astonishing 99/100 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2012 (145383) $213.50 adds 15 per cent Cabernet Franc to 85 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon to create a captivatingly intense red wine that offers layers of complex red and black berry flavours in a dense and silky mouthful that will only improve with a year or two or even ten years in the cellar.

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