Mother of All Wine Festivals Coming: March 28-April 3

Wine tastings have a reputation, not entirely undeserved, for being fairly formal, reserved affairs.   You make your way around the room, swishing, sniffing and – if you’re a real pro – even spitting.   Perhaps there will be light music in the background.  Perhaps some light appetizers will be served.  And so goes the evening – daintily sipping and musing over Cabernets and Pinots, trading tasting notes with wine buffs and, just maybe, getting the slightest of buzzes.

Now, throw all of those expectations out the window.  The International Festival Tasting – the highlight of the March 28-April 3 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival – is nothing like that.  This year 177 wineries from 15 different countries will be gathering inside a single grand ballroom at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the International Tasting.  More than 1,500 different wines will be on offer.  And packed inside – by the thousands – will be the liveliest bunch of winos you’ll probably ever see.

I’ve gone to the International Festival Tasting in years past and, apart from a way to sample a ton of great wines all at once, it’s an absolute blast.  The atmosphere in the room is more like a dance club than a wine tasting.  You sometimes have to shout to be heard over the thousands of other oenophiles, happily hopscotching from Argentine Malbecs to Australian Shirazes, from B.C. Merlots to French Cotes du Rhone and everything in between.

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As the night wears on, things get even more lively.  Famished guests descend upon cheese and cracker plates like college students with the munchies.  Faces shine red with the flush of good wine.  Sample pours get more and more generous.  By the end of the evening, you’ll be chatting with the wine reps like they’re your oldest friends.

This year’s International Festival Tastings will be on Thursday, March 31, Friday, April 1, and Saturday, April 2, from 7-10 p.m.  Tickets aren’t cheap at $95, but it really is a memorable time.  The theme of this year’s festival is the wines of Spain, so there will be plenty of Spanish wineries on hand.  There’s also a focus on fortified wines: those delicious Sherries, Ports and Madeiras.   Tickets to the International Festival Tastings, as well as the dozens of other, more intimate events that make up the week-long festival, can be purchased on the Playhouse website.

Has anyone been to an International Festival Tasting in years past?  What did you think of the experience?

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