Wine Culture Magazine

Three principals reflect on the importance of the Vancouver International Wine Festival

Elise Rialland of Casale del Giglio in Lazio. Janet Helou photo

Another Vancouver International Wine Fest has just wrapped up. The last drop of the more than 800 wines has been poured, the tasting room shuttered, the 18,000 attendees gone home.

Ever since what has become at Canada’s premier wine event began in 1979, each year a theme wine-growing region is put in the spotlight. To the delight of many festival goers, this year, Italy was given the nod. Principals from all regions of Italy and other global wine-growing regions came together to proudly showcase their wines. Attendees learned about Italian wines at educational seminars and events led by passionate winemakers and export directors. (Who, Italians? Proud about their wine??) Principals in turn got to share their wines and passion in the grand tasting room.

Among them was Elise Rialland of Casale del Giglio, in the region of Lazio. “With the focus being on Italy this year it was very important for us to be here. But even in the past we’ve attended as it’s a great occasion to meet both the buyers and the consumers that will come afterwards from having tried our wines,” Rialland says, adding: “Lazio is a region that is not as famous for wines as others, so for us it’s nice to see people trying our wines year after year [at VIWF] and remembering our unique indigenous grape varietals like Bellone and Cesanese.”

The expansive tasting room at the Vancouver Convention Center buzzes with energy, tables are thoughtfully set with lineups of wines and even a handful of sake and non-alcoholic wines. Wineries from all regions of Italy are here, from large operations to the boutique, featuring a plethora of the indigenous wine varieties that Italy is well-known for (perhaps to the chagrin of anyone who has studied Italian wines and had to memorize them).

Ermes Scardova pours Lambrusco at the Medici Ermete table. Janet Helou photo

The Medici Ermete table, where Ermes Scardova was pouring a lineup of laudable Lambrusco, was packed with attendees eager to sample.

“The perception of Lambrusco in Canada has changed a lot in the past 15 years. Today it is very well-received here in Western Canada, and growing across the country and around the world every day,” Scardova says. “The Vancouver festival for me is one of the best shows in North America, I’m not joking! Since the first time I attended, it has been well organized, with rich enthusiasm and knowledge within the wine community. I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Urs Vetter pours a Vietti Barolo at VIWF. Janet Helou photo

Urs Vetter, of Vietti in the Piemontese village of Castiglione Falletto, credits the key changemakers in the B.C. wine industry for the growth of Italian wine.

“The local energy in the industry brings people to appreciate wine, cultivating people and their interest to grow beyond generic grape varietals and styles,” Vetter says. “That’s what makes this event very special. Because these people here are coming to the table, they taste and they will have a new point of reference or their reference will grow, and will grow beyond only drinking what they’re used to.”

For more information on the Vancouver International Wine Festival, visit

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