by Sharon Kapnick
For more than two decades, Jorge Ordoñez has brought many great Spanish wines and inexpensive Spanish wines of great value to the U.S. via his Dedham, Mass., firm. He’s played a leading role in modernizing Spanish wines and then creating a market for them. As wine lovers in the U.S. started to move beyond Rioja and sherry, Ordoñez was exploring, discovering and improving wines from other regions. And then, after Americans embraced wines from Rías Baixas, Priorat and Ribera del Duero, Ordoñez partnered with some of the best winemakers in Jumilla, Montsant and Calatayud.
Wine figured in his life from his early childhood in Málaga, where his family ran a wholesale food and wine business, selling to restaurants along the fashionable Costa del Sol. Ordoñez managed the company for several years before moving to Boston, his wife’s hometown, in 1987. There, importing Spanish wines seemed a promising business for him.
Ordoñez is a savvy, hands-on businessman. He’s guided his producers in all stages of winemaking, suggesting blends, emphasizing quality control and solving problems. He knows which grapes will thrive in each region and ensures that the appropriate grapes are planted in the correct spot. He convinced vignerons to keep their old vines of native Spanish grapes instead of replacing them with better-known non-indigenous grapes. Ordoñez claims to have brought the first Albariño, Spain’s seafood-friendly signature white wine, to the U.S. in 1991. He also introduced Godello, Monastrell and Txakoli to American consumers. He was the first to insist on refrigerated storage areas and refrigerated shipping. He basically revolutionized the Spanish wine trade.
Ordoñez’s talents have received much recognition. In 1997 Food & Wine magazine gave him its Golden Grape Award, which honors “visionaries in America who are not only changing the way we think about wine but also determining what we will be drinking in the 21 st century.” Influential wine critic Robert Parker Jr. twice named Ordoñez one of the Most Influential Wine Personalities of the Last 20 Years. In 2012 he was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional.
In a recent interview with the online Shanken News Daily, Ordoñez said, “Today Americans know Spanish wine regions better than most Spaniards.” That, in large part, is due to the efforts of Jorge Ordoñez.
When shopping for Spanish wines, you’d do well to look for Jorge Ordoñez Selections or Fine Estates from Spain on the label.