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Break out the bubbly — Cornucopia’s here

Blog by Nick Swinburne | November 11th, 2010

Not only does Van Mulligen teach a seminar on sparkling wine, the long-ago sold-out Bubble-icious, she also looks forward each year to attending Araxi’s luxurious Bubbles and Oceans party, where the champagne is always flowing.

In fact, Whistler’s annual food and wine festival is the kick-off to Van Mulligen’s own festive bubbles season — “from then on I drink bubbles right through to New Year’s,” she said.

“(Cornucopia) really is the launch to the holiday season. It makes you feel festive.”

If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate, or you’re interested in learning something new about wine, or perhaps just want a chance to indulge, the 14th annual Cornucopia runs tonight (Thursday, Nov. 11) through Sunday (Nov. 14). The festival lineup includes everything from wine seminars and tastings to glamorous parties, winemaker dinners and even a chef competition.

Though Van Mulligen’s Bubble-icious is sold out, festivalgoers can experience her expertise in the South African Treasures wine seminar, which runs Saturday (Nov. 13) from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre. Van Mulligen has trekked far and wide in South Africa’s many wine regions and she said she wants to share those experiences with others.

“It’s about lending some of my own experience with the wineries and the people I’ve met that make the wine,” she said.

People will have the chance to taste some of the varieties also made in B.C. such as Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz, but discover the different flavour profiles of the wines because they come from different wine regions half a world away, Van Mulligen said.

Seminar participants will have the chance to taste 10 different South African wines, ranging from newer vintages to the Eikendal–Stellenbosch Classique Reserve 2003 and the?Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2006.

“We’ve got a pretty good broad selection of wines,” she said.

Van Mulligen has been a wine seminar leader or panellist at Whistler’s Cornucopia for about four years, and she was a regular attendee before that. She runs two wine websites — www.winediva.ca, which takes a cheeky and informal approach to wine reviews and www.winescores.ca, which is a more serious, in-depth resource.

She’s also an international wine judge who has travelled extensively to wine regions around the world. She’s a regular magazine contributor and talks wine on radio and TV.

Van Mulligen said in her experience, most wine drinkers don’t want to become sommeliers or experts on wine. But people often say that they think others know more about wine than they do.

“I think deep down everyone wants to learn more about wine,” she said. “They want to be able to hold their own in a conversation.”

The more people know about wine, the more they want to know, she added.

When asked what her top event picks are for Cornucopia 2010, Van Mulligen recommended the Crush gala grand tasting, which she called “party central,” Bubbles and Oceans at Araxi, the Big Guns winemaker dinner at Araxi and the Mission Hill winemaker dinner at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Visit www.whistlercornucopia.com for a full list of festival events.