The bottles are already pouring at the Vancouver International Wine Festival this week. 

CBC Radio On The Coast's Master of Wines Barbara Phillip has some advice if you're interested in dipping into wine culture for the first time. 

'It's like stepping up to a huge buffet and realizing you can't eat everything' - Barbara Phillip, CBC On the Coast wine expert

"I would certainly suggest anybody who is going to the festival that they make champagne a big part of their day," says Phillip.

The festival theme this year is bubbly French wines. "How could you go wrong?" asks Phillip. 

Tips to enjoy the festival

Attending a wine festival for the first time can be overwhelming. Realizing you won't be able to do it all is crucial to enjoying it, says Phillip.

Barbara Phillip

Master of Wines, Barbara Phillip (CBC)

"It's like stepping up to a huge buffet and realizing you can't eat everything." 

Phillips recommends festival-goers begin by deciding what they really want to try.

This year, Phillips advises people stick with the theme — so do the obvious and go check out the champagne.

Another way to plan your festival is to review the program and select the wine producers you just really want to talk to, she says.

"Are there a handful of people whose hands you really want to shake?" Barb asks. Pick five or ten of them.

High-level representatives from the wineries are required to attend the festival, so guests get the chance to speak with people who really know their wine.

"If his her her name tag has the same name as what's on the bottle...I love it," says Phillip. It's also a rare opportunity to try some of the world's more expensive vintages.

"Maybe you want to try them before you by them. This is a great opportunity to do that."

The Vancouver International Wine Festival runs until March 2. Most of the events are sold out, but there are still tickets available for the international tasting events.

Barb's Picks for the Festival: 

Taittinger Champagne Brut Réserve. Champagne. France. $64.99

Château de Fesles Chenin Blanc.Anjou. Loire Valley. France $25.99

Abbaye de Sylva Plana. Faugères. Languedoc. France. $28.00

Chapoutier Châteauneuf du Pape ‘La Bernardine’. Rhône Valley. France. $52.99