Ottawa Wine and Food Festival loses its way


This year’s Ottawa Wine and Food Festival was a great spectacle.  But, that was not for the wine and “food” that was there.  Sadly, and in spite of the impressive venue, this was not the best Wine and Food Show that the city has ever seen.

I remember that from just a few years ago, when our nation’s capital Wine and Food Festival had been held at Lansdowne Park.  During the Lansdowne Park era, the Wine and Food Festival became a veritable United Nations General Assembly of wines and liquors. 

Every wine producing nation seemed to have had  a “delegate” during that era, along with many representatives of ice wine and other kinds of alcoholic drinks across Canada.  Or, so it seemed, at least.

The latest re-incarnation of this Show at the ritzy new Ottawa Convention Centre for the wine connoisseur, might just be a bit more impressive than going to a health food store that showcases Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet 7up and a side order of corn flakes.

I would respectfully submit that I have found more surprises at the Fourth Avenue Wine Bar in the Glebe, than at the Wine and Food Festival.  I bought a minimum complement of tickets, and had a hard time finding the kind of innovative wines that I have seen at previous shows, which had included, for example, a brandy and ice wine combination.

One of the most “innovative” wine at this year’s show might have been the Cranberry wine, which was described as being “different” by one Festival attendee.

Most of the other selections were arguably no better or interesting than what you could find in two minutes at many LCBO store across Ontario.

The Ottawa Wine and Food Festival was definitely the place to be, if you were seeking to meet, or at least, people watch, hot ladies and handsome men. 

And, kudos to the Wine and Food Festival for improving the courtesy of its security staff from last year.  This year’s staff was both professional and courteous.  But, what was going on with some of the servers the wine kiosks?

Interestingly, as the security staff seemed to go up in their level of courtesy, at least some of the servers and the ‘down-sized” kiosks seemed to be curt or lacking enthusiasm.   Perhaps, they too, were not impressed with presenting their product to a Wine and Food Show that has become little more than an extension of a ByWard “Meat Market”. 

The Wine and Food Festival could be a spectacular showcase of innovative vineyards across Canada and internationally.  The Wine and Food Festival could also showcase delicious, and even a variety of healthy and nutritious foods produced by local vendors, and also sold in up-and-coming restaurants, bistros and bakeries.

Instead, the Wine and Food Festival offers Ottawa a big fat cliché of sizzle and smoke that has sold out to the lowest common denominator of so-called market driven “clubesque” superficiality that is normally already available in the Market all week. This Show has arguably become more of a night scene of wannabe gigolos and divas more than ever.

Is Milestone, and other ByWard Market night club catering venues of pretentious “shi-shi” finger food, the best that Ottawa has to offer at such a festival?  C’mon Wine and Food Festival, you can do so much better!

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