Andrew Guard

Rioja & Arlanza

Olivier Rivière studied enology in Montagne St-Emilion and worked briefly with Elian Da Ros in Côtes-du-Marmandais, then at Domaine Leroy in Vosne-Romanée where his main interest was to learn about their biodynamic methods. He then went on to Domaine de Chassorney in St-Romain to see how beautiful non-interventionist wines are made - he couldn't have chosen a better teacher than Fred Cossard.

His dream was to start his own estate in Fitou which didn't eventuate so in 2004 Olivier took a job with an estate in Rioja Alavesa to convert its vines into biodynamic culture. Following that, Olivier decided to stay in Rioja and began looking for vines tended organically, with the goal to buy grapes and make his own wine. He found a grower in the tiny village of Cárdenas, and bought and vinified his grapes. He was able to rent a 1.20HA plot from another person, and had his first harvest in 2006.

In a very short period of time he has found a path straight into the hearts and minds of wine fanatics in France, Italy, Japan, the USA and of course, back home in Spain where he is starting get serious respect.

His grapes come from three types of soils: the Graciano vines and part of the Tempranillo for the bottling of Rayos Uva grow on alluvial soils, sandy with round stones; the old vines Garnacha (65 to 90 years) that go into Ganko grow on red soil, with marl and sand coloured by ferrous oxides, at an altitude of 600 meters in Rioja Alta; the best Tempranillo vines (75 years old) are in Rioja Alavesa on clay and limestone soils at 650 meters. Altitude is extremely important to Rivière, the cool nights keep acidity in the grapes, so he can make much fresher wines than most in the region. Rivière’s wines are all about glistening, glorious fruit.

His red bottlings are "Rayos Uva" which is bursting, juicy, bright and succulent and aged only in tank; "Ganko", half and half Garnacha and Tempranillo is aged in barrels and represents subtlety, harmony, elegance and stucture; and "Gabacho" that is 50% Tempranillo 50% Graciano which is made and aged only in tank and vat and is a masterstroke; a medley of fruit, terroir and winemaker that is a thrilling ride.

These wines taste far apart from the vast majority of Spanish wine available on the market and a have more in common stylistically with Burgundy and the Rhône Valley and the prices are more than fair for the spectacular quality of these wines.


Written by Andrew Guard — June 16, 2012