Nicola Thornton has established a dedicated team of wine-loving professionals who create wines from all over Spain, giving life and soul to otherwise hidden gems. Founded in 2016 by British-born Nicola, the team at Spanish Palate look after over 100 wines from 20 regions and exports them to 43 countries. But how did this come about? And what’s the benefit to wine lovers in the UK?
For over 20 years, Nicola had created a healthy network of farmers and winemakers throughout Spain in the wine business. She had lots of friends who were grape growers and wine producers and felt like she wanted to give back to them. The growers she knew personally felt disgruntled about being taken advantage of by larger producers and weren’t getting paid decent wages for their crops. She said they’d often tell the younger generations not to get into viticulture because it was a tough life for little reward. Nicola decided she had an opportunity to make a difference and help these farmers make a good living, while also creating relationships for the farmers to work with smaller, independent winemakers who wanted to produce wines that were a true expression of time and place.
Spanish Palate started from this idea. Farmers Nicola knew were under-appreciated and she felt there was an education component missing when it came to Spanish viticulture. In 2016, Nicola left her salaried job as an export manager and started this mission to have farmers paid a fair price and also link them to winemakers who were making high-quality wine. These two things were integral to showcasing what Spain had to offer to an export market.
Exporting from Spain for production under 100K bottles is very difficult, so Nicola gathered the producers together to put in money and act as a portfolio that operates with a sales model that was more sustainable for both farmers and winemakers. It’s a value-added cycle. The whole purpose of Spanish Palate is sustainability. In terms of consumers and the trade, she is bringing wines to market in an efficient way that may have never had the opportunity to be in the export market without being under the Spanish Palate umbrella. Spanish Palate also gives opportunities to all Spanish wine regions. The portfolio itself is not regionally focused and likes to showcase innovative, high-quality wines from across the country.
Nicola does her due diligence to visit producers and work with them to better the quality of the wines, so they’re better for export and are held to a better standard than they would’ve been on their own. Nicola feels it is her job to share these producers with the world and get their stories out there. She also stated communicating about wine is a major focus for Spanish Palate, and part of the service they provide on behalf of the winemakers and farmers.
Nicola said the main problem with the UK market is everyone wants to be there but it can be difficult to get traction outside of the big supermarket brands. Traditional importers are hesitant or tend to turn down boutique wines from lesser-known Spanish wine regions. She said the Propeller model cuts UK so many barriers to distribution that she previously dealt with in the UK. She said the indie retail connections they’re hoping to establish with the Propeller partnership are invaluable and are the best way to get these amazing wines into the hands of UK wine lovers.
Currently, Propeller carries the Botas de Barro range of wines, made in traditional winemaking regions of Spain where the effort of generations of farmers and great quality winemaking go hand in hand. These wines have already seen success since being launched in the UK, and Nicola is looking forward to expanding the Spanish Palate range in the coming months.
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