The 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival took place February 22-March 1, 2020; the inaugural year was 1979. The board chair is Mark Hicken; executive director is Harry Hertscheg CWE, DipWSET.
The wine world comes to Vancouver for Canada’s premier wine show. The Vancouver International Wine Festival is one of the biggest and oldest wine events in the world, offering something for every level of wine drinker, collector and trade professional. In 2020, winery principals (winemaker, proprietor, senior executive) representing 162 wineries from 15 countries traveled to Vancouver to pour and discuss their wines at 57 events over eight days. The 2020 festival attracted ~25,000 attendees and participants. Each year, this international festival shines the spotlight on one country or region, which has more wineries, wines and events than any other. In 2020 it was France, with a global focus on Rosé. The 2021 festival, February 20-28 will feature South America.
The heart of the festival is the International Festival Tastings at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where ~725 wines are available for sampling, with an additional ~150 wines available at trade tastings. The theme country or region has a special section of the tasting room, showcasing their wineries and style. The room also features regional tasting stations, food suppliers and industry exhibitors, including media and suppliers. Included in the price of each ticket is the opportunity to shop at the onsite BC Liquor Store where all wines served at the International Festival Tastings are available for purchase and can be delivered at no charge to any BC Liquor Store.
More than 550 additional wines are served at special events orbiting the tasting room, including a gala dinner and auction, wine seminars, trade events, and food and wine pairing affairs at top Vancouver restaurants and hotels.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is produced by the Vancouver International Wine Festival Society, which has three mandates: provide an informative, educational and entertaining wine experience for public and trade; be a premier marketing opportunity for the wine industry and festival partners; and raise funds for the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society.
Since 1979, the festival has raised $9.5 million for the performing arts in Vancouver. Since September 2012, the charitable partner has been Bard on the Beach Theatre Society. Over the past seven years, the festival has raised nearly $1.5 million for Bard.
Event prices range from $40 to $450. Ticket prices include wine, food (if it is a food event), gratuities, taxes and service charges. A limited number of tickets to the International Festival Tastings are available at discounted prices from November 1 to December 15 (or while supplies last); discounted passes also are available.
Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction
Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction is the centrepiece of the festival and one of the most spectacular events in the city. The auction includes unique culinary and wine experiences, excursions and extravaganzas. The dinner, which begins with a sparkling wine reception, is the ultimate in wine and food pairing, featuring five sensational courses paired with nine outstanding wines. The gala features a raffle prize from Delta Air Lines of an international business-class trip for two, as well as guest gifts. The gala chair is Jana Maclagan; gala manager is Kelly Snider.
Festival week runs Monday-Sunday and features seven days of events open to the general public, including tastings, seminars, minglers and a range of wine and food events.
The Line-up Of Public Events Includes:
- A launch party featuring wineries from the theme region or country on the Tuesday evening
- International Festival Tastings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Saturday afternoon
- Wine seminars and minglers highlighting trends, wineries and wine styles
- Winery dinners on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of festival week
- Saturday lunches highlighting different wine-producing countries
- The ever-popular Vintners Brunch on Sunday, which includes a food & wine pairing competition with local chefs.
Trade Days Conference
An important component of the festival is the Trade Days Conference, which takes place from Wednesday through Friday of festival week. Twelve wine business events are available exclusively to members of the hospitality and wine industry. Two afternoon Trade Tastings, presented by ContainerWorld, on Thursday and Friday are the focal point of the trade conference; in addition to the ~725 wines poured at the public tastings, trade enjoy ~145 additional wines of unique or special interest. The first hour in the room is reserved for Buyers Only.
The Line-up Of Trade Events Includes:
- A theme region plenary on Thursday
- Various seminars and masterclasses for buyers, servers, sommeliers and chefs
- Principals Welcome Lunch, presented by JF Hillebrand, a networking lunch for the wine industry on Thursday
- Celebrating Excellence: The Annual Awards Lunch, presented by ContainerWorld, on Friday, where the Wine Program Excellence awards, Sommelier of the Year and Spirited Industry Professional awards are presented.
The Trade Days Conference accounts for over 7,000 of the festival’s 25,000 total participants. Trade tickets are restricted to members of the hospitality or food and beverage industry only and there is a registration process to ensure industry participation.
Events take place at ~30 venues around the city. The festival is headquartered at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. The International Festival Tastings, most Trade Days Conference events and public wine seminars are held at the VCC. Other events are held at Vancouver’s top restaurants and venues.
A limited supply of advance rate tickets to select events go on sale in early November. Tickets to all public and trade events go on sale in January. Complete event information and ticket purchasing information is available online at www.vanwinefest.ca.
#1 Food, Wine and Hospitality Event in Canada – BizBash.com: Event Planning News, Ideas & Resources (seven consecutive years)
“It’s all about the interaction between the consumers and the producers. It’s fantastic at every night and at every booth and it’s really responsible for the wine culture in Vancouver.” – Anthony Gismondi, The Vancouver Sun, GismondiOnWine.com
“I think it’s the biggest wine festival in the Americas.” Paul Wagner, wine educator and writer
“A magnificent opportunity to communicate with domestic and industry clients…. Our winery has grown with this community and this festival.” John Skinner, Painted Rock Estate Winery (BC)
“People really want to learn, really want to know more in detail about the wines from all over the world….I will be back for sure!“ Daniel Castaño, Familia Castaño (Spain)
“The scale of it is pretty impressive. … It’s kind of irresistible.” Dr. Jamie Goode, wineanorak.com, Sunday Express
“It is the best run and one of the best organized wine festivals in the world…I hold this up as a paragon of what can happen around the world.” Brian Lynn, Majella Wine (Australia)
“One of the reasons the Wine Festival is so popular, is it’s a wine education class under the sails.” Terry David Mulligan, Tasting Room Radio
“Besides the, oh, 750-ish wines being poured by winemakers and principals from 170 wineries, there’s nothing like enjoying the big-city buzz of the room at Vancouver Convention Centre West, with that jaw-dropping view of the harbour.” Kurtis Kolt, The Georgia Straight
“It’s one of the great, premier wine shows in North America.” Harry McWatters, TIME Estate Winery (BC)
- Founded 1979
- Since 1979, the festival has raised $9.5 million for the performing arts in Vancouver. The charitable beneficiary is Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.
- Wines from 16 countries
- 162 participating wineries in 2020
- 57 events over 8 days
- ~30 venues, ~50 participating restaurants, caterers, suppliers
- ~1,450 wines
~725 (at International Festival Tastings)
~145 (additional wines at Trade Tastings)
~550 (wines at special events)
- 25,000 participants
- 400+ volunteers
- In 2020, the festival showcased wines from France; in 2021 the theme region will be South America
- 2020 major sponsors and partners include: BC Liquor Distribution Branch, BC Liquor Stores, Import Vintners & Spirits Association, The Vancouver Sun (daily newspaper), Delta Air Lines, StayVancouverHotels.com, Vancouver Magazine. Trade Days Conference sponsors include ContainerWorld, ITS Consulting Inc. (technology partner), JF Hillebrand and BCBusiness Magazine.
- Festivalgoers are on average 39 years old, affluent (56 percent have household incomes greater than $100,000), and spend an average of $580 per month on wining, dining and entertainment.
Festival Publications & Communications Assets
(Subject to change)
- Website – ~120,500 sessions annually
- Promotional brochure – 12,000 printed
- Trade brochure – 3,000 printed
- E-blasts – 9,000 subscribers x ~25 blasts in 2017/18
- Tasting Program – 8,000 printed, 64 pages
- Festival app – available for iOS and Android –1,800 installations
- Social media: Twitter ~12,500 followers; Facebook ~4,850 likes; Instagram ~1,900 followers
- Earned media (editorial) – 121.4 million impressions worldwide