It’s the happiest time of the year for wine lovers again – the Winnipeg Wine Festival is officially on, with a big weekend of public tastings coming up! On May 2nd and 3rd, 130 different wineries are setting up booths in the RBC Convention Centre for your enjoyment. That means literally hundreds of wines to choose from, and only a few hours to do it. You need a plan of attack. I’ve lost valuable tasting time in the past orienting myself and trying to decide which direction to go in first.
So I went right to the experts, and sat down with uber-helpful Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson, weekly wine columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and general wine guru. He passed on some of his recommendations for this year’s festival!
- Spain: “The Winnipeg Wine Show actually has a really good selection of Spanish wines,” says Ben.”They’re great food wines, especially with more rustic fare, and great value. Plus they give people a chance to try some grapes native to Spain, like tempranillo, that they might not have tried too often.” Tip to help you find Spanish wineries: The booths go in alphabetical order, and a lot of Spanish winery names start with “Bodega” – so head for the B section!
- O Canada: If you haven’t tasted wine produced closer to home yet, give it a try this weekend – both Ontario and BC wineries are going to be there with some great stuff. Some wineries like Sandhill are sending their producers for the show, so when you go to the booths you might get a chance to hear about Canadian wines right from the people who created them! Ben also mentioned something really cool to look out for at a Canadian winery called Rosewood – mead. I was shocked to learn this still existed outside of in history books and Game of Thrones, and it’s going on my must-taste list!
- Fortified wines: A lot of us may hesitate before buying a bottle of port in the store if we’ve never tried it before, because fortified wines are usually more expensive than other wines. “If you’re interested in fortified or dessert wines, this is a great chance to taste a few before you commit to buying one,” says Ben. But watch out for the lines – they’re popular at the tastings for just this reason!
- Wines from Oz: Australia is the theme country this year, which means they’ve got a special section all to themselves with 26 wineries setting up shop. I know Australia’s wineries as the makers of yummy shiraz, but Ben suggested I branch out a bit more – Australia has some great other offerings, including sparkling wines. And if you can’t r
- esist the call of shiraz, take advantage of all the booths there and compare and contrast a few that are new to you. Yhis is a chance to experiment and try some new flavours – who knows, a wine you’ve never given a chance to before could become your new go-to on the patio this summer!
Finally, some general tips:
- Pick the right time to taste: There are 3 public tastings – Friday night is very busy, Saturday night is INCREDIBLY busy, and Saturday afternoon is a little bit mellower. So if you want to meet lots of fellow wine-lovers and mingle, the evening tastings are for you. If you want to chat a bit more with the winemakers when it’s less crowded and take advantage of the shorter lines in the store, Saturday afternoon is the way to go.
- If you really love it, buy it: Of the 500+ wines available to taste, there are around 100 that haven’t made it into Manitoba liquor stores yet, and may not ever be there. So if you really fall in love with something you taste, consider picking it up at the on-site store on your way out.
PS: Just to make you feel even better about your decision to go, this whole event is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics.