Wine lovers in Vancouver have good reason to raise a glass this week.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival, one of the biggest events of its kind in North America, returns to the city Feb. 20-March 1. The eight-day blowout is much, much more than a simple wine tasting. More than 50 wine-fueled events are scheduled at venues across the city, from wine-paired dinners, lunches and brunches at top hotels and restaurants to special wine seminars and a series of giant tasting for 25,000 oenophiles.
This year, more than 150 wineries from 14 countries will be pouring up their finest reserves. The theme country for the 2016 festival is Italy, meaning fans of Italian wines are in for a special treat. A total of 60 Italian wineries representing nine different regions – from Tuscany to Piedmont – are on hand. There will also be a range of brand new wineries at the festival, including some viticultural pioneers from Kamloops and New Mexico.
The heart of the festival is the International Festival Tastings, Feb. 25-Feb. 27. Held inside the Vancouver Convention Centre, these are pretty much the mother of all wine tastings. Some 776 different wines will be available for sampling inside one giant ballroom packed with literally thousands of wine lovers. You get three hours to try as many as you’d like. (just remember to pace yourself), and afterward you can buy bottles of your favourites at the on-site BC Liquor Store. Three of the four International Festival Tastings are already sold out, but you can still nab tickets for Thursday, Feb. 27, from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. ($89).
The festival is also filled with a range of smaller events for all budgets and tastes, many of which still have tickets available. At Taste Italia! inside the Vancouver Convention Centre (Feb. 27; $115) enjoy a decadent Italian lunch buffet with everything from wild prawns to braised short rib lasagna, all paired with featured Italian wines. Or pop into the Spumante and Co. wine mingler in Gastown’s Inform Interiors (Feb. 23, $69), where you can sip and savour 22 wines, including plenty of Prosecco, while enjoying catered nibbles from Dirty Apron.
For the full lineup of events and to purchase tickets, visit the Vancouver International Wine Festival website.