Their passion for wine together with a deep knowledge of the trade have led Spanish and Portuguese importers into the US Alberto Orte y Patrick Mata, the duo behind Olé Obrigado, to become wine producers.
They have launched two different ranges, both of which try to reflect the distinctive character of a diverse set of grape varieties and wine regions throughout Spain. The “Atlantic wines” are honest, straightforward wines usually produced with the help of the producers in their portfolio. They monitor the winemaking, but are not in charge of grape growing. Mostly sold outside Spain, brands include Columna in Rías Baixas, La Cartuja in Priorat or Gordo in Yecla. In contrast, the premium range bears the signature of Alberto Orte who overlooks the entire process from vineyard to bottle.
Their most ambitious project is in Jerez de la Frontera, where the duo gradually acquired 16 hectares in Viña San Cristóbal halfway between Añina and Balbaína, two of the top pagos (sites) in the region, between 2011 and 2012. The winemaking facilities are located next to the vines, in Viña San José. Just a short drive from there, in the beautiful El Aljibe manor house, rest the soleras and criaderas for their sherries.
Worthy of praise are their efforts to recover the historic grape varieties grown in Cádiz in the past. Some of them like Vijiriega were brought from the Canary Islands whereas ancient clones of Palomino were found in Galicia. The impressive list of varieties found in their vineyards include seven red (Tintilla, Palomino Negro or Tempranillo, Jaén Tinto, Vijiriega Negra, Mollar Cano, Melonera and Mollar Tinta) and 15 white (Palomino de Jerez, Palomino Fino, Cañocazo, Perruno, Malvasía Aromática, Pedro Luis, Vijiriega Blanca, Jaén Blanco, Castellano, Mantúo, Mantúo de Pilas, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Garrido, Pedro Ximénez and Listán de Huelva).
For the time being, the only two varieties that have been bottled separately are the white Vijiriega and the red Tintilla. The white, called Atlántida and aged in foudre and 600-litre barrels, is pretty aromatic, in contrast with the neutral profile of most white grapes in this area (around € 25 in Spain). Albariza soils add salinity to this nicely textured white. Two reds are made with Tintilla, a deep-coloured variety with gentle tannins and high acidity. Vara y Pulgar (€15) is a fresh, fruit-driven red whereas Atlántida (€25) shows higher concentration as the grapes are sourced from the highest part of pago Balbaína. The three wines total 25,000 bottles.
Orte works with cover crops -an unusual practice in the region- to absorb humidity and combat soil erosion in the vineyards. They also pay close attention to the plants’ performance and the ability of the roots to penetrate the various types of soils.
Fortified wines including the four classic categories in the Sherry Triangle are grouped in Bodegas Poniente. Production is tiny, limited to one “saca” per year: 2,000 litres of the eight-year-old Fino refreshed with their own wines from pago Añina (€35), 200 litres of Amontillado and 130 litres of Oloroso and Palo Cortado. With over 30 years of ageing, the last three are classified as VORS with retail prices slightly exceeding €100 each. Interestingly, Bodegas Poniente uses 1,000-litre casks -double the standard capacity of butts in the area- to slow down the ageing process and gain finesse. This is particularly evident in the elegant Oloroso, less powerful than the standard in its category.
Beyond Sherry, some of their most interesting wines come from Galicia. The range includes the red A Portela (€15), a fresh, expressive, peppery Mencía from A Rúa in the Sil valley (Valdeorras) and the three Escalada bottlings; the aerial, floral red Escalada do Sil with Merenzao (Trousseau) as dominant grape; a white Godello fermented and aged for a year in 600-litre barrels, followed by four months in tanks; and the red Escalada do Bibei, a finely-textured, persistent field blend made from grapes grown in rugged vineyards close to the As Ermidas shrine on the right bank of the Bibei river. The white and red Escalada do Sil retail around €25 in Spain; Escalada do Bibei costs €48. Altogether, 25,000 bottles are produced.
In addition to Yecla, where they produce Elo (€26, slightly over 2,500 bottles), a Monastrell grown on limestone soils at an elevation above 700 meters, Orte makes very personal wines in Rioja, mostly Garnacha blends from the Najerilla Valley in villages like Arenzana or Camprovín. The brand here is La Antigua and the range starts with Classic, a barrel-aged white and a red Crianza (€15) followed by a Reserva (€17) aged in barrel for six years and a Gran Reserva (€25). There is also a generic red, Sierra de la Demanda (€25), with three years of ageing, but, contrary to standard practices, it rests first in seasoned barrels, then in new oak. Grapes for the 2015 vintage were harvested in November, highlighting the extreme character of the areas they work in. All their riojas are elegant, polished wines. Some 60,000 bottles are produced altogether.