Spanish touchstone

Olé Imports, founded by a student with no wine experience, is changing the way American consumers approach Spain. Jeff Siegel reports.

Patrick Mata and Alberto Orte of Olé Imports
Patrick Mata and Alberto Orte of Olé Imports

The story of Olé Imports, which has played a key role in Spanish wine’s growth in the US, starts with an underage college student sneaking into a hospitality class at a university that he didn’t attend.

Who knew that moment would lead to a company that, two decades later, imports 200,000 cases a year, does business in all 50 states, represents 70 producers from Spain and Portugal, and has started wholesaling its wines in three key northeastern states?

“Consumers don’t usually know the wines they drink, so they certainly don’t know the importers,” says Michael Quinlan, the wine sales manager at Table & Vine, a gourmet wine and food retailer with seven locations in New England. “But if you’re looking for the touchstones of Spanish wine, the way Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are for French wine, then Olé, with Patrick Mata and Alberto Orte, is one of the two touchstones.”

Mata oversees sales and marketing in the US, while Orte makes wine for ...

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