Tasting Tips

The doors open tonight on the first of four International Festival Tastings, the heart of the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Tickets are still available for Friday evening and the Saturday matinee, but don’t delay, prices go up the day of the event. Tonight and Saturday night are both sold out, but a limited number of tickets will be available an hour before the tasting starts at a $10 premium on the regular price.


With 780 wines from 180 wineries representing 16 countries on offer in the Tasting Room, you need a plan. Below are 10 tips by one of the top wine educators in the business, DJ Kearney (@djwines), and a quick Tasting Room strategy from the festival’s executive director, Harry Hertscheg (@HHonwine).

Harry Hertscheg’s quick Tasting Room strategy

Go to the tables without lineups for more quality time with the visiting vine stars, who will be wearing a royal blue lanyard. Make sure you try at least one wine from every participating country and spend some quality time in Canada – visit a few wineries from Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. There’s no bad wine in the room – try something new!


  1. Have a meal first. It’s a wine tasting, not a dinner event. Some food is available in the room (including chef-created small plates at Sysco Vancouver and a selection of finger foods at Nesters Market), but it’s not a meal.
  2. Have a plan of attack. Consult the Tasting Room Program online or pick one up onsite. It’s a big room featuring 780+ wines. Be strategic and arrive early to be ready to taste when the doors open!
  3. Keep your profile lean. Check your coat and keep your shoulder bag small. Use the festival app (download from the App Store and Google Play) to make notes. Use your smartphone to snap pics of wines you enjoy.
  4. Leave fragrances at home. Scents from perfume, aftershave or even hand lotion can interfere with your (and others’) enjoyment of the wines.
  5. Wine world fashion tips. Dark colours will be your friend if wine is dripped or spilled on you. And high heels definitely will not be your friend. Wear flats. Your feet will thank you.
  6. Stay hydrated. Water is the second most popular beverage in the room. Drop by the FIJI Water station for free natural artesian bottled water.
  7. Swirl, sniff, sip and then spit. Yes, spit (or dump out) the contents of your glass. That’s what all the pros do. Wineries will not be offended. It’s how you get to enjoy lots and lots of wines.
  8. Talk to the vine stars. It’s a VanWineFest hallmark that each winery brings a winemaker, owner or senior exec to Vancouver. Vine stars wear royal blue lanyards. Talk to them and you’ll learn inside tips that will enhance your enjoyment of the wines.
  9. BC Liquor Stores onsite wine shop. All wines served at the winery tables are available at the onsite BCLS store. Shop as you go (don’t wait to the end, or your favourites might sell out) and take advantage of the Bottle Check. Your wines can be shipped for free to your local BC Liquor Store. The wine shop is available only to those with a ticket for the current International Festival Tasting session.

Don’t Wine and Drive. Plan a safe ride home. And if you’re on transit, pick up a free transit pass at the Get Home Safe booth as you exit the Tasting Room. Or take a taxi, limo, have a designated drive or stay at a hotel. Just Don’t Wine and Drive.

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