Who’s Your Daddy?: Ortega

The “Who’s Your Daddy” series takes a very brief look at the parentage of grapes, in order to get a better understanding of where particular varietals come from and how they are genetically related to one another.  So far, we’ve covered: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Chardonnay, Gaglioppo di Cirò, Gamay, Merlot, Müller-Thurgau, Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Pošip bijeli, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Torrentés riojano, and also the grapes from the USDA grape germplasm collection. Feel free to click on any one of the varietal names to read all about their parentage.

So far in the “Who’s Your Daddy?” series, I’ve covered a lot of grapes that are relatively common to not

Photo By Dr. Joachim Schmid, FG RZ, FA Geisenheim [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Dr. Joachim Schmid, FG RZ, FA Geisenheim [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

only the winegrowers but the general consumers as well. I would like to shift gears a little bit and try to focus a little more on lesser-known varieties of grapes. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I believe it is very important to educate wine consumers at all levels about the benefits of maintaining and expanding the biodiversity of wine grapes. Diversity is important not only for a little variety in your life, but more importantly for the overall health and sustainability of the wine industry as a whole, particularly in this time of climate change.

Without further ado, the focus of this “Who’s Your Daddy?” post is the Ortega grape variety (Vitis vinifera).

Brief History

Ortega is a white grape variety that was created in 1948 by Hans Breider at the Bavarian State Research Center for Wine, Fruit, and Horticulture (a.k.a. Bayerischen Landesanstalt für Wein-, Obst- und Gartenbau)in Würzburg, Germany. Ortega has and can be used both as a wine grape as well as a table grape.

Also known lovingly as “Würzburg 48-21-4”, the name “Ortega” was assigned to the grape by Breider as homage to the Spanish philosopher and poet, José Ortega y Gasset.

Most of the Ortega at the moment appears to be in Germany (mainly in Pflaz and Mosel), with 622 acres as of 2009, however, this value is on the decline. Ortega is also grown in England as well as in Canada, with the majority of the successful plantings in Canada located in British Columbia (Okanagan Valley & Vancouver Island), and some planted in Nova Scotia. There are also a few plantings of Ortega in Argentina.


A cold-hardy grape, Ortega is considered by some to be relatively easy to grow. In fact, you can grow Ortega in your own backyard (if you are in the right climate)—just check out these detailed instructions on The Backyard Gardener here.

Ortega is an early ripening grape, and due to its cold-hardiness is not very sensitive to frost and therefore does well in colder climates. On the downside, Ortega is known to be more susceptible to fungal infections, including black rot, downy mildew, and powdery mildew.

Ortega is known to produce nice full berries with high must weights, and while often used as a blending grape, it can make acceptable wines on their own (often as an alternative to a sweeter Riesling).

Tasting Notes

I have never actually tried Ortega myself, so all tasting notes listed here are from other sources found online (links to sources at the end of this post). If you have any recommendations for a specific Ortega wine I should try, please feel free to make those suggestions in the comments.

When produced as its own wine and not as a blending grape, Ortega is often better as a sweeter style wine. Ortega wines often have aromas of muscat and peach, and are also sometimes described as having a lot of floral notes or being “grapey”.

My favorite tasting note on Ortega:

“I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing.” Ortega, your sweet nature is laudable, but you are easily taken advantage of by sharper minds. How many times will you sit obligingly in the freezing Canadian winter, only to see others, like Riesling, get the Icewine credit? Simple as you may be, everyone enjoys your peachy attitude. Your sweet temperament is adored, and your willingness to work overrides your low aptitude. –Appellation America

Who’s Your Daddy, Ortega?

Enough with the backstory already….Who’s Your Daddy, Ortega??

The fact that we know the parentage of Ortega should not come as a surprise to you, as you may recall reading that Ortega is a grape that was intentionally created and bred back in 1948. Nonetheless, let’s dial up the excitement anyway…..

The parents of Ortega are….

Photo By Rosenzweig (Own work (own picture)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Rosenzweig (Own work (own picture)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons







Photo By Agne27 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Agne27 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons





There you have it! If you’ve been following the Who’s Your Daddy series on The Academic Wino at all, you’d know I’ve covered Müeller-Thurgau (M-T) in the past. So, not only do you know Ortega’s parents (M-T and Siegerrebe), but you also know two of its grandparents—Riesling and Madeleine Royale! Crazy!

Do you have any experience with either Ortega grapes or Ortega wines? Please feel free to share your comments and/or suggestions on your favorite producer of Ortega!


Peer reviewed:

Myles, S., Boyko, A.R., Owens, C.L., Brown, P.J., Grassi, F., Aradhya, M.K., Prins, B., Reynolds, A., Chia, J-M., Ware, D., Bustamante, C.D., and Buckler, E.S. 2011. Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(9): 3530-3535.

Online (last accessed 02/25/2015):