Spanish sips for wine fest early birds

Planning ahead has its benefits. It can prevent you from missing out, gives you something to look forward to and may save you some money.

February 24, 2018, might sound like the distant future, but the opening day of the Vancouver International Wine Festival will be upon us in no time. If you attend every year, why not commit now? Advance tickets for select events go on sale November 1 at a reduced price until December 15. Details can be found at

VIWF 2018 has Spain and Portugal as the focus. Our savvy importers and buyers seem to have anticipated the interest in these countries’ offerings, as the selection in stores already appears more robust than usual.

While I have yet to test-drive the latest from Portugal, I’ve been wading my way through those from Spain. This wine giant has long bestowed us with plenty of cheap and cheerful wines, which absolutely have their place. However, I’m impressed by many of the sophisticated new arrivals. They demonstrate the diversity of styles and unique flavours of Spain while still offering great value for money.

You can prime your palate in preparation for VIWF with the following new listings at B.C. Liquor Stores. Treat it like learning a few phrases in another language before travelling to a foreign country – but even more enjoyable.

2015 Davila, O Rosal, Rías Baixas D.O., $22.49
Rías Baixas is in Spain’s far northwest corner and O Rosal is a sub-zone. White grape Albariño leads the way here, with support from Loureiro and Treixadura. Steely and succulent with lots of lemon pith, white flowers, orange and pineapple, it possesses excellent concentration and complexity for its price point.

2013 Bodega Menade, ‘V3’ Viñas Viejas Verdejo, Rueda D.O., $37.99
Made from old Verdejo vines in the predominantly white wine region of Rueda. Fragrant herb and green tea marry beautifully with toasted nut and slight popcorn notes in this judiciously oaked white.

2013 Bodegas Marta & Maté, ‘Píxide’ Ribera del Duero D.O., $18.99
Tempranillo is Spain’s most planted red variety and found in many of its regions. The extreme conditions of Ribera del Duero (dry, hot days, chilly nights) can make for fairly intense wines. Expect blackberry blossom, subtle vanilla, licorice, tobacco and dusty tannins.

2015 Descendientes de J. Palacios, ‘Petalos’ Bierzo D.O., $36.99
This elegant and polished red is crafted from Mencía, the grape behind the northwestern denominations of Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra. Here it gives wines a distinct freshness that distinguishes it from the full-throttled, jammy reds of Spain’s south. Bierzo is a particularly silky example with gorgeous cherry, juniper and violet scents.

Hidalgo, ‘Gobernador’ Oloroso Seco, Jerez D.O., $39.99
Sherry is one of Spain’s greatest gifts to the wine world, but is still sadly underappreciated and misunderstood. It deserves an entire article. In the meantime, try the Gobernador Oloroso. Aged in old barrels for about 12 years, giving deep walnut nuances along with wood polish, mushroom and dried fruit, it is tangy, long and dry.

• Prices exclusive of taxes.