More than 450 domestic and international wineries will be at this year's Boston Wine Expo, pouring their latest and greatest wines for connoisseurs and fledgling oenophiles alike.

More than 450 domestic and international wineries will be at this year's Boston Wine Expo, pouring their latest and greatest wines for connoisseurs and fledgling oenophiles alike.

The expo will kick off its 17th year this weekend at the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel on Boston's waterfront.

According to show director Ed Hurley, it's the largest wine event in the country. The main event on the show floor is the Grand Tasting, where the vineyards are set up in the center ``like a large reception,'' he said.

``For the most part, it's made up of wine tables,'' said Hurley. ``Instead of seeing rows and rows of booths, all of the wineries are all there. They're all grouped by countries. There are ancillary booths with wine products (along the sides).''

Visitors can choose from more than 1,800 different wines from 13 countries. But planning and pacing are important for show attendees, and help is available.

``A big part (of the expo) is the educational elements,'' said Hurley. ``You get up close with a wine expert and you get to ask questions.'' A different selection of classes is offered each day of the expo, and tickets are selling briskly, Hurley said.

Wine expert and teacher Kevin Zraly will give a popular class called ``One Hour Wine Expert'' in which he introduces six wines, three red and three white, to get participants started. He'll also counsel students to limit themselves to 30 wines in the course of their visit to the Grand Tasting.

And, as Hurley reminded, ``Do what the experts do, and spit.''

``There's a technique; you start with the lighter (wines) then build up,'' said Zraly. ``Map it out. The sequence of tasting wines is extremely important.''

Hurley also recommended that attendees use the program they will receive at the door to plan their day. Visitors can concentrate on their favorite type of wine and try samples from several wineries, or focus their time on a particular country's vineyards. For example, Zraly suggested, ``If you're going to Italy, stay in the Italian wines.''

For the cost-conscious, Rick Lombardi, co-owner of The Vin Bin wine and cheese shop in Marlborough, suggested there are plenty of bargains to be found from the wineries of Spain, South America and even the south of France.

``The beauty of (these) is the value - well-made wines that earn high praise from wine critics and are a bargain; in most cases in the $10 to $15 range,'' Lombardi wrote in an e-mail while on a buying trip in France.

In addition, he thinks this spring looks rosy for wine lovers.

``Wine drinkers can expect to see ... several choices in rose wines - light-bodied dry `pink' wines that go well with many cuisines and are great values,'' wrote Lombardi. ``We tasted several 2007s and I expect the wines to make a big impact this year.''

The Boston Wine Expo is also about food that complements the wine. Chefs will be demonstrating techniques from two food stages on the expo show floor.

``We made a real effort to highlight up-and-coming chefs in the area,'' Hurley said. ``They prepare their dishes, they offer the recipes, they talk about wine pairings. There are people who come mostly for that and they plunk themselves down there.''

Chef Toru Oga, of Oga's Japanese Cuisine in Natick, will be at the expo for the third year in a row. He will prepare a salmon tartare using a specially raised type of salmon the Japanese call honjake.

``It's a farm-raised salmon, but they feed it only natural ingredients,'' said Chef Oga through his wife Kumiko Oga, who translated for him. The dish will be prepared with Japanese miso and samples will be served to the audience. A sommelier will pair the dish with a wine.

I like ``to use these kind of opportunities like the wine expo (to show) just what true Japanese food is like,'' he said. ``(I) would (like) to educate the eating public about the true integrity of how Japanese food is prepared and consumed. That's always been (my) goal.''

Zraly looks forward to the cooking demonstrations at the expo.

``I always love hearing what chefs have to say,'' he said. `Everyone has a different opinion, and it's great. I spend a lot more time at the cooking areas.''

And U.S. wine consumers are becoming more educated and sophisticated.
``In the U.S., we've seen 14 consecutive years of increase in wine consumption,'' said Zraly. ``We're No. 2, just beating out Italy, and fast approaching France, which is No. 1. The interest in wine and food and travel is where a lot of American disposable income is going.''

The 17th annual Boston Wine Expo is Saturday and Sunday , Feb. 9 and 10, from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $95 for the Saturday Grand Tasting, $85 for Sunday, $160 for a two-day ticket and $175 for the Grand Cru Wine Lounge, which includes admission to the Grand Tasting. An opening night fundraising celebration, Jazzed About Wine, is Friday{ , Feb. 8, from 7 to 10 p.m. and tickets cost $215. Buy tickets at area retailers, including The Vin Bin and Marlboro Wine & Spirit Co., both of Marlborough; Liquor World of Franklin; Liquor World of Medway; and Liquor World of Milford. Tickets and more information are also available online at www.wineexpoboston.com.

Are you Jazzed About Wine?
Although the Anthony Spinazzola Foundation ceased operation last summer, 22 years of wine and food galas inspired by the late writer and oenophile still mark the memories of area connoisseurs.

Happily, the Boston Wine Expo will continue the tradition of a Friday night event preceding the expo. The event, though, will be slightly different.

``The galas in the past focused a bit more on the restaurants in the area,'' said Ed Hurley, show director of the Boston Wine Expo. This year, the focus is more on the wines.

Renamed Jazzed About Wine, it takes place Friday, Feb. 8, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel in Boston, and will include - you guessed it - live jazz. Tickets are $215 per person, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Anthony Spinazzola Apprenticeship Program.

Atlanta artist Thomas Arvid, who specializes in art about wine, will be on hand to create a piece that will be auctioned off at the end of the evening.
Visit www.wineexpoboston.com for a full list of wines and participating vineyards, beneficiary information and other event updates.