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JEAN-SÉBASTIEN MORIN: 2018 P.E.I. Festival of Wines is a great time to connect

The last column showcased wines from Chile, the featured country at 2018 P.E.I. Festival. This week highlights more festival wines from the rest of the wine world showing great value at various price points (photos above). 

As ludicrous as it may seem, at its core, the world of wine is not about wine, it’s about people.

Most importantly, it is about the people who bring wine to life: from vineyard staff and winemakers to export managers and the people who drink it, consumers who enjoy wine with a myriad of occasions, large and small, both at home and out. A wine festival is wonderful because it allows these two groups to connect.

The 2018 P.E.I. Festival of Wines is the perfect event for someone who enjoys wine or wants to learn about it as it provides the opportunity to meet and talk with approachable wine professionals who are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their products. Unfortunately, some people still think that being a wine “expert” is a prerequisite for attending such an event. Nothing could be further from the truth. The festival is all about learning while having fun. All that is required is an open and inquiring mind. 

Browsing leisurely from booth to booth and trying wines with no set agenda while catching up with old friends is a perfectly acceptable way to experience the festival – many unexpected and pleasant discoveries are made this way. 

Some folks choose to do a little preparatory work to get more out of their evening. If you are so inclined, start by asking yourself when you enjoy wine most often – sipping while relaxing on the patio or watching television or when having meals. If you have wine most often with meals, what do you tend to eat? Are you vegetarian or a year-round barbecued ribs enthusiast? Another important aspect to consider is whether you host often or not.

These factors may influences the type of wine you want to explore at the festival. No need to know that Sauvignon blanc pairs nicely with most vegetarian fare or that Zinfandel is out of this world with ribs or that off-dry Riesling is a perfect sipping wine or even that Nero d’Avola is a budget-friendly crowd-pleaser that even Aunt Mary will enjoy at the family get-together this summer.

Tips to optimize your experience at the 2018 P.E.I. Festival of Wines

  1. Eat beforehand (light appetizers are served, but they are not meant to be a full meal)
  2. Arrive as soon as the event begins (three hours go by very quickly, and the first hour is the quietest time of the evening)
  3. Stay hydrated during the event by drinking plenty of water.
  4. Take notes. It is easy to forget or get mixed-up later on with 250 wines available for tasting.
  5. Take advantage of promotions offered at the on-site wine boutique.
  6. Make plans ahead of time to get home safely.

The winery staff at each booth and the product advisers at the on-site boutique can help you find just the wines you are looking for – it all starts with your taste, lifestyle and preferences. 

The advisers at the on-site boutique are knowledgeable and, having tasted most of the wines at the festival, are uniquely positioned to supplement your own tasting notes and advise you on your purchases; just tell them what you like and they will make recommendations tailored to your needs.

If you are a big fan of a specific grape variety, say Cabernet Sauvignon, you can really make the most of the festival by comparing Cabs from around the world. Having tasted a few, you may be able to perceive a common style in the Cabs made in the same countries. Do you prefer one style over others? You could even do this for the wines of a specific country and explore, for example, the variations that exist between Cabernet Sauvignons of various Chilean wine regions. This kind of focused exploration is not for everyone, but it is a great way to learn, in a few hours, what make take years of casual wine purchasing to figure out.

You may opt for a strategy that is almost the reverse and decide to only try wines from grape varieties and regions that are completely unfamiliar to you. Some people see the festival as an opportunity to ‘scope out’ lesser-known grape varieties and broaden their wine horizons, impressing friends along the way with discoveries such as the Pecorino grape variety or the Priorato region of Spain.

Once you discover a wine that you really enjoy, the festival is the venue to find out everything there is to know about it directly from the people who made it. They probably have had that wine with dozens of different dishes and can recommend sure-fire food pairings for it or, having worked with this wine for years, they will have a privileged understanding of how each vintage will age over time and can provide unparalleled advice on cellaring. There are no silly questions, and visiting winery staff or wine agents really appreciate your interest and inquiries – that is why they are on P.E.I. this week.  Ask away, this is your chance! 

Jean-Sébastien Morin is a category manager with P.E.I. Liquor. An accredited sommelier, wine writer, educator and wine judge, his love of wine was born in the late 1980  while studying and working in Europe. Inspired Grapes aims to transmit Morin’s passion for wine while never forgetting that the pleasure of a glass of wine often resides in the moment and the company in which it is shared. To reach Morin, email

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