British Columbia

'Have a bit of a strategy:' Vancouver festival boasts 4,500 wines to choose from

On the heels of a two-week wine boycott, B.C. has a chance to bounce back starting Saturday night with the annual Vancouver International Wine Festival.

Here are some tips for tackling next weekend's daunting array of rosés, Rieslings and Chardonnays

It's tempting, but try not to sample too many of the 4,500 kinds of wine available on the tasting floor, our expert says. (Credit: Getty Images/iStock Photo)

On the heels of a two-week wine boycott, B.C. has a chance to bounce back starting Saturday night.

The Vancouver International Wine Festival kicks off with the 30th annual Bacchanalia Gala, an aptly-named elite auction to celebrate some of the year's most indulgent bottles.

Vintage collections from Napa Valley to Burgundy are expected to sell in the thousands to B.C. collectors, with proceeds going to the Bard on the Beach Theatre Society.

The festival continues to next weekend's star event, when the tasting floor opens with 180 vinyards serving up 4,500 wines.

'It can be overwhelming'

Pinots, rosés, Chardonnays, Rieslings — where does one even start?

"Don't panic," cautions Barbara Phillip, On the Coast's resident wine expert. "It can be really overwhelming."

Rather than throw caution to the wind and taste it all, Phillip advises a bit of pre-drinking planning.

"The best thing to do is have a bit of a strategy," she said, advising to pick and explore just one or two favourites wineries.

After that, it's time for adventure — but let the experts be your guide.

If you don't know what to drink first, On the Coast's expert has some tips. (barmalini/Shutterstock)

"Ask for recommendations," Phillip suggests, and don't forget to spit out the wine, or at least take a break for food.

"If you feel your palate getting tired, take a break, get off the tasting floor and have something to eat," she said.

Wine industry booming

40 years ago just a single winery started the festival, Phillip said, but now industry superstars come from all over the world to support B.C.'s market.

Here are some wines to look out for at this year's Spanish and Portuguese-themed festival.

Freixenet Cava Brut, Catalonia

"It's still the best deal, hands down, for sparkling wine," said Phillips — and it's under $20, too.

Torres Mas La Plana, Catalonia 

"It drinks like a beautiful, very expensive Cabernet," and it's often confused for a high-end Bordeaux, Phillips said. 

Quinta do Crasto, Portugal

A dry table wine from Portugal with notes of mulberry. Good for a chilly winter night.