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A sommelier on Spain: Quality wines at value prices

Published:  19 April, 2016

Spain has become the country of choice for one Canadian sommelier working in the UK.

According to Pamela Hatton, a sommelier working with buyers to stock the shelves of the Canadian Force's duty free shops, Spain's emergence as a high quality, competitively priced wine producing country is what - for her - has put it over and above France as the major European player.

She said: "The world has stamped itself on France and has been trying to mimic it for years. But Spain is making its own mark and the investment in equipment is really showing in the quality of the wines. A lot of wineries in Spain are cutting back on production and focusing a lot more on quality. Greece is doing something similar.

"Spain is offering tremendous quality at value prices."

But it hasn't always been that way.

"Around 15 years ago it wasn't like that at all," Hatton added. "In Canada, we called it 'plonk', which means cheap wine. It was wine made for the mass market - the kind you would pick up at a grocery shop or a discount store. But now the wines are distinctively well-made and surprisingly good value."

Pamela Hatton Pamela Hatton

Hatton has worked in the Canadian forces, first as a food service officer and then as a sommelier for the past 20 years, and currently works with buyers to purchase duty-free products.

As well as tobacco and perfume, the organisation buys wine and spirits for Canadian troops and NATO personal stationed in the UK.

So what does she look for in a Spanish wine?

"Our clientele looks for good value," she explained. "We have to find something at a price point that tastes more expensive than it is. Lesser-known regions are going to lead you to this type of value. Greece and Spain are really hitting their stride with this. Australia is still churning out garbage at the low end and the good stuff is really expensive, whereas Spain has boutique wineries selling high quality at grocery store prices."

An attendee at the Wines from Spain fair at Tobacco Dock last week, Hatton explored the vast array of unknown wines and up-and-coming regions on show.

But while she enjoys discovering new regions, she said there is one she returns to regularly.

She said: "I've been buying a lot of Rioja because it's a lot better value than Bordeaux. Also, I go for Cava when I'm not on a Champagne budget. I've been really impressed with Marinella Cava and also Gramona. For me, Gramona is the bench mark of great cava."