The Vancouver International Wine Festival, Canada’s premier food & wine event, has three mandates: to provide an informative, educational and entertaining wine experience for public and trade; to be a premier marketing opportunity for the wine industry and festival partners; and to raise funds for the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society.
VanWineFest is Canada’s premier wine show and widely considered to be the best wine event in North America. With ~25,000 admissions and at 39 years of age, it is one of the biggest and oldest wine events in the world. Its slogan is “The Wine World is Here”. It has been voted the “#1 Food, Wine & Hospitality Event in Canada” the last four years in a row by New York’s BizBash. The Trade Days Conference, presented by Sysco, portion of the festival comprises 14 of 54 events.
The heart of the festival is the Tasting Room, where the public can choose from ~800 wines at four International Festival Tastings, and industry professionals can sample those plus an additional ~150 wines at two Trade Tastings. There are ~50 special events that orbit the tasting room (seminars, vintage tastings, winery dinners, lunches, brunches, wine minglers and more) at which 600+ other wines are served.
This international festival typically serves wines from ~15 countries. There is a focus on a different region or country every year; the featured theme region has its own section in the tasting room and offers thematic seminars and food and wine pairings throughout the week. For 2017, Canada is the theme, in celebration of our country’s 150th birthday.
The festival grew from humble roots as a fundraising initiative of then Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company board member John E. Levine. The inaugural festival in 1979 featured one vintner – Robert Mondavi – and saw approximately 1,000 people attend the two-day event at Hycroft, the Shaughnessy mansion owned by Vancouver’s University Women’s Club.
In its second year, VanWineFest was also a one-winery show, but had grown by its fourth year to attract 45 California wineries, becoming known as the California Wine Festival. The ninth festival in 1987 was the first multi-national event, with wineries from six more countries joining to showcase their wines. After outgrowing several different venues, the Wine Festival moved to the Vancouver Convention Centre in 1988, where the main Tasting Room sessions have been held for the past 25 years.
In 1996, VanWineFest began shining the spotlight on specific wine regions by featuring a new theme region or country each year, with the French wine region Bordeaux being the inaugural theme. In 2017, the Wine World Celebrates Canada as part of our country’s 150th birthday celebrations.
Sadly, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company announced in March 2012 that it would cease operations after 49 seasons, thus ending a long and fruitful relationship. Over 34 years, the Wine Festival raised more than $8 million dollars for Playhouse operations, supporting a rich legacy of more than 235 theatrical productions. The newly named Vancouver International Wine Festival announced in September 2012 that its charitable partner would be Bard on the Beach Theatre Society.
Today VanWineFest attracts some of the biggest industry names from around the world and is firmly established as the continent’s premier wine event and among the biggest, best and oldest wine events in the world. It features wine tastings and pairings, gourmet dinners and luncheons, educational seminars and culinary competitions.
This is a rare opportunity to meet owners, winemakers and senior representatives from wineries around the globe. For either the experienced wine lover or the novice, the festival has something to please every palate and pocketbook.