For a Good Wine: The Vancouver International Wine Festival

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The main festival event is now over and I must say it really was a fantastic show. While the Vancouver Convention Centre was no place for those who fear crowds, the sheer amount of high quality wines being poured this year, the opportunity to talk to wine makers and representatives from the vineyards themselves, and the ability to buy wines not normally in the Vancouver market, made this an outstanding experience. I hope more of you will get the chance to go next year.

What I’ve decided to do for today’s column is essentially to give out ‘awards’ for what I think were the outstanding wines and also for some great value wines exhibited at the show that you can get in the Vancouver market. This year’s theme was Italian Wine and, for anyone who enjoys the old world, this focus allowed the visitor to experience a bit of what Italy is up to these days. It’s quite a fascinating place in the wine world with its amalgam of old and new world styles, and its juxtaposition of rustic producers with new wave, new world influenced wineries. There were around 700 wines poured at the show, of which I tasted a hefty number. Here are my final impressions of the best the festival had to offer:

 Best Red Wine

Winner: Domaine Drouhin “Laurène” Pinot Noir 2004 – $75

With all the great wines I tasted this was an extremely difficult decision. Drouhin is a Burgundian producer who was one of the pioneers of Oregon Pinot and helped put it on the map as a wine region. This is a high end version of their Pinot Noir and it evokes the aromas and flavours of a really really good Burgundy wine, but at half the price. This was like drinking an elegant Strawberry Rhubarb pie imbued with a certain earthiness. This wine had the structure to develop in your mouth for 1-2 minutes and its pure finesse paired amazingly well with its fresh acidity that kept the mouth alive and wanting more. Absolutely fantastic stuff.

Runners Up: Greenock Creek ‘Alice’s Block’ Shiraz 2005 – $80; Quinta do Crasto Maria Teresa 2005 – $120; Prunotto “Bussia” Barolo 2003 – $100+

Best White Wine

Winner: Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 2005 – $55 (currently unavailable)

Ridge is a California producer based in Sonoma whose reputation was made pumping out fantastic Zinfandels and a few very ageworthy Cabernet Sauvignan’s. However, while all those wines were showing well at the show and are very highly recommended, it was their white that really stood out. These are my notes:

Ho-ly smokes. This was one heck of a wine. Incredible aromas of roasted hazlenuts and rich melons. Upon sipping this wine exploded into melons, peaches, and hazlenuts and lasted in the mouth for at least 1 minute after the final swallow. And yet, this has great acidity and purity and is not over-oaked or overly buttery like bad Californian Chardonnay. This wine got ranked as the #2 white wine in the US by Wine Spectator, which is why it is currently unavailable. Rumour has it (from the president of Ridge) that the 2006 vintage will be out in June.

Runner Up: Moillard Chassagne Montrachet Embazees 2005

Best Value Wine

These are the wines that most of you will care about. There were quite a few great wines at the show, but not that many “great” wines coming in below $30. However, the winner here is sure to please both palate and wallet.

Winner: Cortes De Cima Chamin̩ 2005 Р$19

Portugal, as a wine region, is way under the radar, and I just don’t know why. This Portuguese wine consists primarily of, strangely, tempranillo (a Spanish grape) but has a distinctly portuguese character to it. I would describe the fruit in this wine as port-like jammy blackberry mixed with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. The finish is smooth, the fruit is intense but not over the top, and the wine delivers one heck of a lot of value for $19. Unless you absolutely hate jammy flavours, this is one to get.

Runner up: Carpineto Chianti Classico 2005 – $22

Best Winery

Winner: Prunotto

This was a tough category, especially with several great producers from Tuscany and Piedemonte strutting their stuff at the show. But no one had the same consistency in quality across such a broad array of wines as Prunotto. I tried six of their offerings, including the Nebbiolo d’Alba Occhetti 2005 – $35, the Costamiole Barbera d’Asti DOC 2001 – $56, the Barbaresco 2004 – $55, the Barbaresco Bric Turot 2001 – $80, and the “Bussia” Barolo from both 2000 and 2003 – $100+. Every single one of these wines was outstanding.

My personal favourites were the 2003 “Bussia” and the 2004 Barbaresco, which sported an absolutely superb quality to price ratio, explosive fruit, and definite age-worthyness. But, don’t let that dissuade you from seeking out the beautifully structured and very elegant 2001 Bric Turot or the supremely atom-dense 2000 “Bussia”, which should age for years and years and open up into a leathery, tobacco-infused, herbal beast. 

The Bric Turot, and Costamiole Barbera both received 90 points from wine spectator, and the Barbaresco received 91. Now, personally I have no idea what those numbers indicate, never have, and doubt I ever will. However, based on the types of scores they give to other wines, these are, in my opinion, conservative ratings that don’t reflect the high levels of quality, consistency, elegance, and yet rustic beauty this winery brings to its wines. A true star of the show.

Runner Up: Damilano

And that’s it for the summary. You can look for these wines on the BC Liquor website by using their search function on the top right  hand side of the web page. Some of these may also come available at Kitsilano Wine Cellar, especially if enough people inquire about them. Until next week, I’m signing out after a long weekend of tasting – oh life is so hard.

Last modified: March 7, 2008

One Response to " For a Good Wine: The Vancouver International Wine Festival "

  1. StanTheMan says:

    Great recommendations Shea! I’ll check out the Cortes De Cima Chaminé 2005.