French bubbly was on everyone’s mind at the 36th Annual Vancouver International Wine Festival. Held in the stunning Vancouver Convention Centre West, there’s three evening (plus a new Saturday afternoon) tasting sessions open to the public.
Wine lovers congregated towards the entrance of the immense room, where featured wine region France was in the spotlight. I decided to start with bubbly, work my way through a few crémants and whites, then onto a few reds, before leaving France for Australia and Argentina.
There’s simply no easy answer when considering where to start – or end – your wine journey when France alone commands 52 wineries from nine growing regions at the festival. French grapes, techniques, and style have greatly influenced winemakers around the globe, with many wineries hoping to emulate what France has brought to the table. I’ve highlighted my favourites here. Hopefully you’ll discover a few of your own!
Remember, drink responsibly. As you collect your coat after the tasting, there’s a booth a little further on, offering free transit tickets for a safe ride home. And cheers to another successful year of wine tasting!
Sieur D’Arques Limoux France Premiere Bulle Brut ($23.99)
Made with 90% Mauzac, 5% Chenin, 5% Chard Mousseaux Blanc grapes, this is a light, classic sparkling wine with white flower bouquet at the nose, and hints of white fruit and nuts. It’s aged for 18 months on laths, giving it a light bubbly quality.
Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé NV ($21.99)
This Burgundian crémant contains a solid trio of chardonnay, pinot noir, and gamay, with a great harmony and floral aroma. I noticed outstanding notes of plum and strawberry, giving this wine with a creamy finish a great match for grilled seafood, chowder, mild cheeses or tapas.
Meanwhile, over at the Languedoc-Roussillon table, I enjoyed Mas Janeil Le Pas de La Mule ($54.99; special order) and Francois Lurton Mas Janeil Maury 2010 ($29.99).
The Le Pas de la Mule is 60% old Grenache vines, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvédre. Grown on steep slopes, this is a complex red. The Francois Lurton Mas Janeil Maury is nice as a dessert wine – the old Grenache vines impart a rich and rustic flavor to this wine.
Chateau Laroque St. Emilion Grand Cru 2009 ($66.99)
Winemaker Benjamin Tueux creates a deep, dark intense wine with dominant black fruit aromas. It’s a smooth-sipping wine with great tannic structure, and I can easily imagine pairing this with roasted chicken or ribs.
Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2011 ($92.00)
The du Pape Rouge has a sweet bouquet with cherries, plum, truffle, spiced black cherries containing ripe tannins and a medium body. This one will need a couple of years in the cellar and can be enjoyed for 15 years or more.
In the Argentina section, I found several lovely Malbecs.
Bonarda Mendoza Colonia Las Liebres 2012 ($12.99)
This one contains plum, spice, red fruit, and mocha in a medium-bodied red that’s grown in Medrano and Carrizal de Abajo. The area sits higher in elevation and the vines get cooler nights, producing a great acidity.
Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Reserva 2011 ($33.99)
Layers of macerated blueberries, cassis, black peppercorn, with silky tannins and mocha notes makes this an outstanding malbec to serve with grilled meats, BBQ, and hearty pasta. This wine’s grown in the Uco Valley at an altitude of 3,600 feet in ancient riverbed containing limestone, adding a great texture to the wine. Aged in French oak for two years. And in case you’re wondering about the ant icon, Altos Las Hormigas translates to “mountains of ants”.
Domaine Bousquet Grand Reserve Malbec 2010 ($25.99)
This is the only winery in Argentina that can boast the word ‘domaine’ in its name. The grapes are 100% organically farmed and certified, grown in the Andean foothills 1,200 meters above sea level. There’s a defining aroma of red berries, blackberry, and spice in this Grand Reserve Malbec, aged in French oak for 12 months.
Susana Balbo Signature Malbec ($29.99)
Susana Balbo is considered one of the top 50 women winemakers in the world and is Wine of Argentina’s current president. Her 92% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon signature Malbec has a gorgeous finish, aged 13 months in 80% new and 20% second-year French oak.
Two Australian wines caught my attention.
Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache 2011 ($29.99)
Earthy texture, spicy undertones, lightly acidic and well-balanced, this one’s got strawberries, raspberries, and white pepper, with an earthy quality. It’s aged in French oak for 18 months.
Chapel Hill The Vicar Shiraz 2011 ($55)
A plummy wine with good acidity, this is the Chapel Hill Winery’s flagship product aged in French oak for 20 months.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival Tasting Room concludes tonight at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.