Jorge Orte Tudela: «IN THE WORLD OF WINE, THE MORE YOU LEARN THE LESS YOU KNOW»
- Publicado por: Susana Escobar Luqui
- Categoría: Internacional
He has trained 687 students, tasted wine from 55 wine-producing countries and 679 designations of origin, and 296 grape varieties. Jorge Orte Tudela from Aragón has achieved this extraordinary record in just seven years.
Orte obtained in 2015 the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) after passing all the exams on the first attempt. Due to his extraordinary results, he was awarded The Vintners ‘Scholarship during the graduation ceremony in January 2016, an award given annually to the best graduate student in the United Kingdom, the second most prestigious award after The Vintners’ Cup, awarded to the best student of the world.
He had previously been awarded The Amorim Scholarship, awarded to the student from Europe with the best results in the subject of wine production. Jorge has travelled to many of the most reputed wine regions in the world. He is a great connoisseur of international markets due to his experience as an Export Manager.
Besides, he has been a judge of the International Wine Challenge of London since 2014, the International Wine & Spirits Competition since 2017 and the AWC Vienna since 2018, and has collaborated with the Regulatory Council of the Protected Designation of Origin Campo de Borja and Aragón Exterior in the promotion of Aragonese wines in London. He is also a certified trainer of Jerez wines (CRDO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry) and a cava trainer (Institut del Cava).
Where does your passion for wine come from?
I do not come from a family of vintners, and at home, they only drank wine at celebrations. Always the same brands of red and sparkling wine, the kind that everyone knows. If I am looking for a turning point, it is when I was about twenty-two years old. I remember I was rereading “The Three Musketeers” and it turns out that they spend almost more time holding the bottle than the foil. Reading descriptions of what they were drinking made me want to drink some wine. I went down to the nearest supermarket and bought a Somontano Merlot from the 1999 vintage. The rest, as they say, is history, although my interest grew very little by little until my thirties years, which is often the age around which we amateurs begin to go to tastings.
Due to your good results in obtaining the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) as a student, you were awarded The Vintners’ Scholarship, an award given annually to the best graduate student in the United Kingdom. What has this award meant in your career?
To tell the truth, not much. It is a very prestigious award that has been obtained by many people who later became Master of Wine, as well as wine critics and books writers that today are the subject of study, but nobody in Spain knows it. In fact, although technically it is the best graduate in the UK, in my time there, we graduated more than ninety-five percent of students from Europe. In the United Kingdom, it is quite respected, and internationally it contributed to the fact that a private University in Manila specialized in hotel and restaurant management would hire me to teach courses there in the Philippines, although unfortunately they did not manage to enroll enough students.
Here it gives me a bit of prestige when I introduce myself to the students in class and explain my professional background before starting the course, but the truth is that I do not feel very comfortable with self-promotion and less when it is necessary to go into detail to be understood, so I only mention it in passing.
You are a WSET teacher and thanks to you many people have already obtained the desired certification. What advice do you always give your students?
I always advise getting rid of prejudices and biases from the first moment. As a producing country, we tend to overestimate our strengths and underestimate those of other countries. We are surprised that this or that region of Spain is not mentioned and we do not understand why this or that of Australia is mentioned. To the Australian it will happen the other way around. If we do not understand the international market, we cannot understand the relevance of what is ours and that of others. The aim of the course is not to explain the market, but the composition of the course outline is a reflection of it.
I also stress how important it is to evaluate wines objectively, regardless of our personal tastes, trends and commercial positioning. It is more difficult with wine amateurs, even if they are also professionals, because we tend to drink better and better wines and we forget that there are very modest and inexpensive wines that are more than drinkable. If from time to time we buy a very low-priced wine and have lunch or dinner with it, so to speak, we “recalibrate” our quality scale. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am as successful in this last matter as I am in breaking down prejudices. It is particularly important for professionals, the amateur who does not work in the sector can say what he or she wants, but the professional needs to be more objective.
Finally, I try to explain that, in the world of wine, the more you learn, the less you know. If my students finish the course with more questions than when they started, it means that I have done my job well, even if it seems otherwise. This is something that is difficult to teach, and that you learn over time if you do enough research. Even if you learn later, you have to really assimilate it. I discussed it with some microbiology doctors from a Basel pharmaceutical company, for whom I did an informal tasting. They were praising my knowledge about wine and I told them the same thing; that the more I learn the less I know. I was very relieved when they told me that exactly the same thing happens in science, and that it is usually indicative that you are really beginning to understand the subject.
What are the concerns that your students show when it comes to wanting to obtain the certification?
It depends. I have students with many backgrounds: there are managers, sales directors, marketing, communication, wine tourism, and sales people of national and international distribution, shop assistants, winemakers, sommeliers… and amateurs without any professional link to wine. Everyone has different reasons for getting certified, so generalizing it’s difficult.
They often seek to learn more about wine, because in Spain it has traditionally been thought that the one who has to know about wine is the winemaker and the sommelier, and when it comes down to it, everyone who works in the sector needs to know the product, and not just theirs.
Winemakers are usually more interested in broadening horizons and learning about regions and varieties with which they are not so familiar with. Sommeliers are often looking for a complement to their training and a prestigious certification.
When working with such heterogeneous groups, my challenge is, without leaving the training program, trying to give the most customized approach possible. If many people related to management are attending, marketing and sales, I feel at ease and I can give them practical examples, thanks to my experience as an export salesperson. When I deal with people more related to the elaboration I tend to be more technical, whereas when I deal with sommeliers I tend to make more appreciations about the trends in the restoration of big cities like London, New York, Hong Kong or Tokyo.
The truth is that more than the initial concerns, I find their final concerns more interesting. Almost all students end up with many prejudices and broken myths, and their global vision of wine changes substantially. It is a process that I can see from the blackboard as the course progresses.
You have travelled through the most important wine regions in the world. Which one has caught your attention the most?
Don’t you dare posing that question! Which has NOT caught my attention? It is like asking for your favourite region or grape variety.
If we are going to be “conventional”, I find the diverse areas of Santa Barbara County (California) particularly interesting, particularly its Syrah and Pinot Noir. The entire Western Cape area in South Africa is very exciting with its constant wine revolutions. I would stick with Hemel-en-Aarde and Elgin’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the red and white blends and endless experiments from Swartland, but stick with that’s not doing justice to all that the Cape has to offer. I also have to mention that Portugal, the whole country, is worth paying a lot of attention to. We have it next to us and we do not know what we are missing. I love Greece too, but I have not had the pleasure of visiting its wine regions yet.
If we are going to be more “extravagant”, the whites of Georgia once again turned everything they thought they knew about wine upside down. It is a world by itself that very few really know.
What do you think of Aragon‘s wines?
That they are very polarized. On the one hand, we have wines with excellent value for money, usually produced in very large volumes, which are pleasant and satisfying. On the other hand, there are very exciting projects, carried out almost always by small producers, who are committed to high quality, innovation, new trends, and wines with a lot of personality.
In general, we are doing well in our commitment to Garnacha. In fact, I think we need to work more on the white and grey Garnacha. The Cariñena (Carignan) variety is also interesting and we are just beginning to pay attention to it, and there are more semi-forgotten native varieties that we would have to experiment more.
You usually collaborate in the promotion of Aragonese wines abroad. Which feedback do you get from foreign buyers and consumers?
Interestingly, buyers know us more than we might believe, but for reasons that generally do not suit us: large volume and low price. In each of the most important supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, there is Aragonese wine, but, with few exceptions, it is labelled as a supermarket white label. As anecdotes, the first day I went into a supermarket in Napa (California), the first wine I saw was from Calatayud, many boxes stacked for a bargain. In addition, Mr. Otaki, in charge of quality control at Château Mercian (Japan), told me about the Zaragoza Tube because years ago he came from time to time to buy wine in bulk for the Kirin group.
More interesting is the image that we can transmit if we do appropriate promotional work, knowing the taste of the market and making a correct selection of wines that reflects the different styles that we can offer, and not imposed by particular commercial interests. More interesting is the image that we can transmit if we do adequate promotional work, knowing the taste of the market and making a correct selection of wines that reflects the different styles that we can offer, and not imposed by particular commercial interests.
Many of those attending the masterclasses that I have taught have been surprised by the quality of our wines, and it is not that they did not know Aragón as a producer, it is that they had the idea that we produce wines of “good value for money”. If they are offered the right wines and explained why they are the way they are, we have the opportunity to change their perception, in the same way that my students change theirs, regarding the wines of certain countries.
If we do not know what makes Campo de Borja, Calatayud or Cariñena different, which are relatively close to each other and work with similar varieties (that is why I do not mention Somontano, which is another story), we can hardly create interest in our wines. I still remember the astonished face of an student when I mentioned the vineyards in altitude and he asked me, skeptically, what I understood by “altitude” and I replied that 900-1,000 meters are not rare in Calatayud. He was amazed; I think he thought Aragón was very flat. Explaining these things is more important than telling “the story of Uncle Paco who planted a vineyard.”
How would you define Aragon’s wines?
In many respects like the Aragonese themselves. In general, we are intense, it takes a while to get to know each other, but then we like each other and are considered loyal. I guess our wines tend to be more or less the same.