With less than two months to go until the Winnipeg Wine Festival — it runs from April 29 to May 5 — things are starting to heat up around town with regards to all things wine. As one of the country’s largest wine fests (and second only in Western Canada to the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival), the event features hundreds of wines from around the world at the weekend’s public tastings, as well as ancillary events throughout the week.
2012 Winnipeg Wine Festival theme
This year is particularly exciting, as the theme regions for 2012 are British Columbia and Ontario. In some ways Manitoba is the logical place for the two Canadian wine-producing regions to meet — Manitobans are privy to a fairly equal number of wines from both regions.
I spoke with a number of winemakers, export managers and other principals in my two trips to the Okanagan Valley in 2011, and all seemed excited at the prospect of coming to Manitoba to showcase their products. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for tasting and learning more about Ontario wines, many of which don’t get to B.C. The feeling, I’m sure, is mutual in Ontario, as each province tends to focus on wines made in their own backyard more so than reds, whites, bubblies and dessert wines from other Canadian regions.
How to taste wine at the Winnipeg Wine Festival
If you’re serious about tasting wine, the public tastings on the Friday and Saturday nights might not be your best bet. Instead, opt for the Saturday matinee tasting; it costs less, there’s way more elbow room, and the session features all the wines poured at the evening events without the hordes of festive sippers.
The festival’s public tasting used to feature a corner hosted by Independent Specialty Wine Stores of Manitoba, but the group of six stand-alone shops no longer participates in the fest, having opted instead to put together events of their own throughout the year. The weekend tastings feature an on-site store — in years past customers have been able to pick up orders of six bottles or more at the Manitoba Liquor Mart of their choosing.
The ancillary events throughout the week tend to be smaller, more regionally focused, and feature wines that might not be poured at the pubic tastings. As such, they’re more useful for those looking to make notes and try new wines both on their own and with food. While the ancillary events have yet to be announced, expect an interesting cross-section of themed tastings, dinners and more.
As in past years, Wine Access will be well represented in at the Winnipeg Wine Festival. The magazine always has a presence at the public tastings, and this year the magazine will also be co-presenting an event with Joey Restaurants, hosted in part by yours truly. Details on this event and all the others will be posted on the Winnipeg Wine Festival website in the weeks to come.
Photo by Karin Lizana