EFEToronto

Several hundred people including restaurant professionals, gastronomy reporters and wine-lovers in general attended the Spain Is Wine fair in Toronto, which seeks to expand the market share of this Spanish specialty in Canada.

Taking part in the Spain Is Wine fair, organized by the Spanish Trade Office in Toronto and the Spanish Foreign Trade Institute, or ICEX, are some 60 wineries presenting 275 different wines.

The fair comes at a time of booming Spanish wine sales in Canada - in the first six months of 2016 alone, sales jumped 10 percent for a value of some $45.7 million.

Much of this growth occurred in Ontario province, the North American nation's second-largest consumer of Spanish wines after Quebec.

According to figures of the Spanish Trade Office in Toronto, exports of Spanish wines to Ontario grew 15 percent between January and June, compared with a 4 percent growth for other foreign wines in the same period.

Rosa Angulo, associate director of food, gastronomy and wine at ICEX, told EFE that Canada "is a very important market for Spanish vintners."

Angulo said "this is a market that recognizes the quality of Spanish wines" and that "it is demanding more of these produces all the time."

Oscar Ruiz, export manager of the Catalan wine cooperative Unio, agreed that Canada "is an interesting market."

Though Unio does not yet sell its products in Canada, Ruiz said its presence at the Spain Is Wine fair shows that the cooperative's wineries well understand the potential of the Canadian market in general and Toronto in particular.

"It has an interesting volume, there's a wine culture and consumers here are familiar with vintages from around the world," he said.

Ruiz noted that Spanish wines have an "unbeatable" price-quality ratio compared to the competition, but said a lot of work remains to be done.

"Spain started selling wine abroad much later than France and Italy, so we have to get a little pushy to obtain even a few centimeters (inches) of shelf space in the stores. But little by little we're getting there," he said.

"We have to insist on that. Because we offer an unbeatable price-quality ratio. And we also have to begin educating consumers about the diversity of our wines, which isn't easy because to many of them, Spanish wine mostly means Rioja," Ruiz said.

The head of the ICEX Wine Department, Alfonso Janeiro, called this competitive/educational work on behalf of Spanish vintages the most important activity at events like Spain Is Wine.

It is very important that consumers "learn more about Spain's different wine-growing regions and different varieties of Spanish wine. That's why events like this are essential," Janeiro said.