By Jamie Drummond
I’d be quite surprised if there were even a handful of Sommeliers in Panama, although I could be wrong. Panamanian Sommeliers please do be in touch as I would be interested to discover how the role of a Sommelier plays out in a system with such fetters.
It appears that all or most of the wine imported into the country comes through one source, meaning that even the very best restaurants are drawing from an extremely limited palette. With this comes the fact that a Panamanian wine lover/diner would quickly become intimate with the extremely limited offerings found on restaurant lists, and hence there would be no need for a Sommelier in even the most elevated of establishments.
Another detail that speaks volumes is that I have yet to see a year of vintage listed anywhere on any wine list, something that I suspect correlates directly with the compromises one has to make when dealing with such a limiting supply chain.
Walking around one of the largest wine stores in the city I was impressed with much of the pricing, but then again that is something that is supposed to happen when a monopoly purchases in such huge quantities (Hello LCBO?).
There were one or two more interesting wines, but on the whole the selection was generic and played extremely safe, with the best selection undoubtedly hailing from Spain, something that is reflected in the wine lists of many a restaurant in Panama City.
Stand out wines would certainly be the good selection of mostly inexpensive Albariños from Rias Baixas, Spain, asthese are wines that fit so well with the seafood-rich cuisine of this part of the world.
I have yet to see a decent wine by-the-glass list, with every establishment I have visited thus far serving only international big brands and limited to Argentina, Chile, and Australia, with Spain occasionally getting a look in.
Perhaps there are some restaurants or wine bars out there with more progressive lists?… I would love to hear about them.
As a city’s restaurant scene evolves through its food, design, and service, so must its wine programs, something that I do hope happens in parallel in Panama City over the coming years.
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… and he wonders how many viewers caught the MV references in the video.