Food and Drink 

Speed dating and the principals of wine

The 2011 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is fast approaching: dates are March 28 through April 3 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. The 33 rd annual wine fest features 177 participating wineries from 15 countries, pouring more than 1,650 different wines.

The theme country for 2011 is Spain, home to the largest area of vine under cultivation in the world. But, more importantly, you should know Spanish wine yields remain uncommonly low. That means Spanish producers are more about quality than volume and as Martha used to say, that's a good thing. There will also be a global focus on fortified wines led by sherry, port and madeira from Spain and Portugal but there will be others examples from France, Australia, North and South America and South Africa.

The event I'm most looking forward to, and it's not just because I'm hosting it, is Meet Your Match, a speed dating format involving the biggest names, and wines, at the festival. The event delivers a fresh twist on the very stale, sit-down wine seminar.

Here's how it works. Each of the 11 winery principals will man one side of a six-foot table while a group of six or seven consumers will gather on the other. The clutch of wine nuts will have about seven minutes to spend with each producer to hear their story, ask questions and taste one truly memorable wine before the dating bell rings to tell them they must move on to the next wine.

It's an amazing experience for most anyone who's never had a chance to meet one-on-one with what I would describe as inspirational and visionary wine types. Believe me, you will not be disappointed. What follows is a brief description of the principals and the wine they will pour at the event plus a bargain pick from the same producer that you can buy today in B.C. wine stores.

Alvaro Palacios 2007 Finca Dofi, Priorat, Spain $95 will be presented by owner/winemaker Alvaro Palacios. The wine comes from Alvaro's original Priorat vineyard and is a blend of garnacha, cabernet, and syrah. Expect power and finesse in the glass with a sense of place and style. Clearly among the best wines of Priorat. Bargain pick: Pétalos 2007, Bierzo, Castilla-Leon, Spain $33

Stefano Leone, long-time international export director and right-hand man for Piero Antinori, will pour Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore 2007, Tuscany Italy $94 . Tenuta Guado al Tasso is about some 80 kilometres southwest of Florence near the medieval town of Bolgheri. The 65/30/5 blend is a mix of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. Bargain pick: Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato 2007, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy $35

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