The Story

 

Olivier Rivière began his own project in 2006. The land was expensive, but he managed to trade in his biodynamic expertise for plots of land and grapes in Rioja. Production began in earnest when he procured four hectares in Arlanza, between Rioja and Ribera Del Duero, where he found large amounts of very old vines of Tempranillo and smaller quantities of Garnacha.

 

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The People

Olivier

Olivier Rivière was born and raised in Cognac, in the south of France, and had originally planned to start producing wine in Fitou.

He had already spent much of his time learning about biodynamic and organic wine production, having studied oenology in Montagne St-Emilion, Bordeaux. He spent some time putting these skills to use, first in Bordeaux and then in Burgundy, working on a range of vineyards.

But his Fitou plans changed when he was asked by Telmo Rodriguez to travel to La Rioja Alavesa in Spain in 2004, to help convert his vineyards to biodynamic production. He has been in the country ever since, having fallen for Rioja, with its diversity of grape varieties and soil types.

Rivière’s reputation as a perfectionist is summed up nicely by the name of one of his red wines, Ganko. Ganko was a name given to him by a Japanese importer, meaning “stubborn”. 

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The Place

Rioja, Spain

Today, he has 25 hectares of wines, with elevations between 350 metres and one kilometre above sea level. Some of his vines are more than 90 years old, and include Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. He owns and rents vineyards in Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa, as well as his plot in Artanza

The soils here are made up of red clay, limestone, sand, gravel and alluvial, and the climate is generally mild, typically continental. Harvests are conducted by hand, with grapes transported in 14-kilogram batches to avoid damage, and taken to the cellar for manual selection within 30 minutes. Whole cluster fermentation then takes place, each variety separately, using indigenous yeasts, and the wine is aged in variously sized tanks, foudres and demi-muids. Maceration is minimal, and only a small amount of sulphites will be used at the point of bottling.

Rivière tends to follow a technique of producing cuvées holistically across terroir and uses a quality grading imported from Burgundy, starting with generic appellations and village wines, and moving up to Grand Cru. This is instead of the local tradition of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

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