This everyday kind of bargain price red can give you a feel for what Tuscany is all about.

It’s time! Vancouver International Wine Festival next week

Wine Wise with Doug Sloan

The 38th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will take place from Feb. 20-28.

The theme country is Italy and 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!

Tough choices will overwhelm you – so many Italian wines to choose from – but stay calm, be brave and follow the signs!

Get a feel for what Tuscany is all about with an everyday kind of bargain priced red.  Carpineto Dogajolo Toscano Rosso IGT (141721) $17.70 is made from 100 per cent Sangiovese – the most widely planted red wine grape in Italy. Red and black fruit flavours dominate in this super smooth and sexy mouthful. Cherry, raspberry and blackberry segue into sweet fresh leather and spicy peppery notes.

Keep a record of your favorite wines rather than trying to quaff down more of them. If you find a wine you really like, write it down and stick the information in your pocket. A quick pic on your cell phone is an excellent way to truly capture you’re favourities if you plan to buy them later to enjoy in the comfort and safety of your home.

Nothing quite cleanses the palate like a sip or two of bubbly. 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 phenomenally successful Prosecco. Bright and sassy up front, it develops an apple pie richness opening up on the tongue.

As difficult as it may seem, don’t spritz up with perfume, cologne or aftershave before heading out for an evening of nibbling and sipping at the 38th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival. Even the subtlest of scents can confuse your sensitive nose and baffle your taste buds. Not to mention the evil glares you’ll get from fellow wine enthusiasts standing next to you.

Break up the streams of red wine you’ll be sampling with a luscious white or two. Even at the premium level, among similar wines from other Chilean producers, Montes Alpha Chardonnay (390203) $26.30 is a fascinating white wine with a medley of mango, peaches, guava and grapefruit aromas and flavours tantalizing the taste buds over a core of fresh sliced lemons and asparagus. Ten months in French oak adds subtle elements of toast, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel.

Spit two or three of every five wines you sample if you can’t spit them all. At least some of the tastings should be just that. Think about carrying your own travelling paper spitty coffee cup. This gets around the problem of cups not being available – or people ‘hogging the available spittoons. You can rinse your spit cup regularly with the water that is available at every table.

British Columbia wineries should be next up.  Do yourself a favour and track down a sipping sample of Time Estate Winery’s ‘Sundial Vineyard’ Meritage (99853) $35.25. The partnership of Harry McWatters and Bob Wareham decided a blend of 60 per cent Merlot, 29 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 11per cent Cabernet Franc would give them the combination of red berries, black cherries and peppery rose petal and sage nuances they were after in their Bordeaux-styled blend.

Regardless of your intentions, when you’re sampling even a small fraction of the more than 750 wines that will be available for you pleasure and enlightenment, you’ll start to get a little light-headed. Drink lots of water before you go and keep sipping as you work your way through the evening. You’ll feel better for it in the morning.

After BC, California is the best represented individual region at the 38th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival. Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (352583) $43.60 is a classic. It oozes aromas of ripe black fruit, mocha, dried herbs and licorice. Fabulously fruit with cacao and roasted coffee notes lingering in the aftertaste.

And whatever else you do, be sure to have a designated driver or some plan to avoid driving. It is always safer to have a non-drinker in charge of the driving.

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