Vancouver International Wine Festival 2014

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Another year another wine festival. This year’s theme was France, with a focus on sparkling wines. That means Champagne, though the producers at the show were pretty much all large houses and so the sampling of styles was limited. My perusal of the tasting room led me to a couple gems, as is always the case at this festival, though most of the wines poured were of little character or distinction, with many mass market wines at the sub $30 price point. Surprisingly, one of the best booths of the evening was the new BCLDB booth, which featured wines brought in for the festival by the LDB itself. There were several gems on the table, including two superb value Burgundies. As for regions, someone needs to get cool climate Australian wines into the festival as there is almost no representation. The Loire section was very small, which may give festival goers the false impression that it is a minor region of France. It’s a shame the fully glory of the Loire was not on show, though that was true, as well, of Bordeaux which generally does not need to market itself through these sorts of mass consumer tastings.  On the other hand, Alsace was well represented, which was nice to see for a region that is too often over looked.

Overall I was more impressed with the white wines than the red wines at the festival. There are too many rich, poorly structured red wines on offer that do not give drinkers a distinct flavour profile, but rather just undelineated fruit and lackadaisical aromas. That was not true of all the wines, obviously, but I found it to be a trend. Perhaps it was a result of a predominance of southern French, Australian, and Argentinian wines from middling producers (or lower end bottlings from higher end producers) that were more jam factories than finessed works of art. This is not a criticism of those countries and regions generally, for I love many wines from them, but rather of the selection on offer at the festival.

I was unable to attend any seminars or dinners this year, which is a shame, as I find the best wines and most educational experiences come from those events rather than the grand festival tasting.

My picks from this year’s fest follow:

Zinck makes some good value wines from Alsace, and this 2011 Pinot Gris was a good example of the value and quality you can get for Alsace for less than $30. Very Good.

Another Alsace gem, Hugel’s dry style showed very well, and this Riesling is an outstanding 2012 that can and should age for several years. Very Good+.

Dry Pinot Gris, with great typicity. Very Good+.

One of the great values at the show, and found at the BCLDB booth, this Claude Marechal Bourgogne from 2010 was very pretty, but true to form Burgundy Pinot for $30. Very Good.

The Marechal Savigny les Beaune was a big step up in structure and depth from the basic Bourgogne, and a nice example of what seems to be the charm of 2011 Burgundy (though it is probably too early too tell). I highly recommend this wine for its authenticity of fruit and sense of place. Very Good+. $45.

The La Tour Figeac shows how delicious 2009 Bordeaux can be. This wine shows Saint-Emillon’s earlier drinking window and is delicious now with a decant. Surely it will also age for 10 years. Excellent. $75.

One of Germany’s oldest and most famous estates, Schloss Johannisberg can be uneven at times these days, but this 2012 Kabinet Feinherb Rotlack was declicious and poised well between sweet and acid. Very Good to Very Good+.

One of my picks of the show, this grand cru from the Rheinhessen’s Gunderloch is absolutely outstanding Riesling full of fruit and power, but finishing totally dry. It is an absolute bargain at $63 at the festival store. It will reward long cellaring but of course is brilliant now as well. Excellent and Highly Recommended Value.

Priced in the mid-tier in the low $30’s, this wine delivers bang for the dollar. I love Gunderloch’s drier style to this Kabinett, and the fruit quality is quite impressive for this price point. Very Good+.

How not to love Barolo. Damilano is also a consistent, modernist producer. This 2008 Liste is powerful but structured and was likely the most impressive red wine of the festival. Excellent. $100.


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