the bc wine appreciation society is the "anti-snob" of wine lovers

"White wine or red?" That universally recognized question is a diving board into the bottomless conversation among wine-lovers and beginners alike.

The BC Wine Appreciation Society (BC WAS) is a non-profit organization that recently hosted their 10th year anniversary with the first-ever gala to celebrate the many fabulous wines this province has to offer. Their goal is to be educational and social by introducing wine in an un-intimidating environment that fosters learning, encourages questions and brings winemakers and consumers together to partake in the art of sniffing and swirling.

According to event coordinator Kristal Kaulbach, the society’s unofficial motto is “enjoying wine in a non-snobby way.”

“We want to teach people what we love about our province: our wonderful wine and our wonderful food,” Kaulbach says. “There are over 200 BC wineries and many people haven’t tried any of them.”

 Event coordinator Kristal Kaulbach with Nicolle Hodges

47 wineries attended the BC WAS Gala, held recently at the Diamond Ballroom in Vancouver, overlooking the water and mountains.

So what is it about wine that brings people together?

Kaulbach says it’s partly the taste, but it really comes down to the whole experience of how wine and food compliment one another.

“Plus there is a certain social aspect to it,” she says. “It makes you relax and gives you something to talk about with others, like 'what did you think of this Pinot Blanc? You must try this Merlot!'”

Rows of BC wines fill the ballroom; some bottles are chilling on ice in tin barrels, and as the sun sets, it casts a warm glow on the ruby dark red pouring from bottle to glass.

Kaulbach stands on the balcony with a glass of wine in her hand and watches the 200 or so guests walk around sampling and chatting.

Much like a wine has an interesting description – be it bold or bubbly – Kaulbach says she would describe herself as “complex.”

On the other hand, Leeann Froese, owner of Town Hall Communications, would describe herself as a Riesling: sour and sweet. She is excited that so many people have the opportunity to be exposed to BC wines who may have not previously opted to try them.

The experience in the room varies; from people who can fluently speak the language of the grape to people who are still trying to figure out what tannins means. Froese is not about overcomplicating the process and says that people should be intrigued by wine instead of intimidated by it.

“When you're drinking wine it comes down to two things and two things only: yuck or yum,” Froese says.

“The only way you can find out what you like is to experiment, the world of wine is deeper than the ocean and you can learn about wine until the moment you die and it will always change.”

BC has four official wine growing regions: Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, the Similkameen Valley and the Okanagan Valley - all represented at the BC WAS Gala.

“What's really exciting from a wine lover and consumer perspective is that a wine that is grown on Vancouver Island is going to taste completely different than a wine grown in the Okanagan, based on the dirt it’s grown in, the amount of sunlight it gets and the amount of rainfall it receives,” she says. “Its fun to celebrate the many microclimates and growing regions that we have all in this province.”

The wonderful thing about wine culture is that it can mean something different to everyone. Wine is the embodiment of a special occasion, the epitome of class, a romantic gesture, a prized collection (BCWAS President Brian Glaum owns 1,200 bottles) and often a glass full of heart and history. Each winemaker spoke of their wine like a bottled piece of art.

“The thing I love the most about wine is not actually what's inside the bottle, it's about what happens outside the bottle," says Froese. "It unites people, it’s a social beverage by nature and it brings people together.”

Attending one of the many BC WAS events is a good way to learn about wine all while enjoying a classy buzz.