Currently making wine in Rioja, Arlanza and Navarra, Frenchman Olivier Rivière is a good example of the new wave of young, small producers who have emerged in Spain over the last decade.
He started to work with well-known producer Telmo Rodríguez but it didn’t take him long to start buying grapes for himself. Over the last few years, Rivière has also managed to purchase some distinctive vineyards in different regions which he vinifies separately following a Burgundian approach. His first production came from El Quemado in Covarrubias, a lovely and remote valley in Ribera del Arlanza appellation in Burgos (Castilla y León). Alto Redondo followed in Navarra with some recent purchases in Rioja. Olivier consults for Bodegas Lacus in Aldeanueva de Ebro (Rioja Baja); it is at these facilities where he makes his wines.
For Olivier vineyards come first, focused as he is in obtaining high quality grapes. Small fermentation tanks (cement and oak vats) ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 litres enable him to ferment separately either top vineyards or village wines. He usually ferments his reds with stems and he always uses large barrels (300-500 litres) to age his wines.
In Rioja Olivier sources his grapes from different areas; old Viura from Labastida for his complex, barrel fermented white El Bastid (formerly called Jequitibá, about €18 in Spain, 7,000 bottles) and a striking and profound wine called Mirando al Sur (only 600 bottles) which literally translates as “Looking South” given that it is aged in sherry butts.
As for his reds, Rayos Uva (around €9, 50,000 bottles) is a light-bodied blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano displaying preserved fruit balanced with some herbaceous notes; Ganko, a blend of Garnacha and Mazuelo, comes from Cárdenas in Najerilla valley, on the right bank of the river Ebro. It is usually fermented with stems resulting in a fresh, balsamic and intense red. Starting in the 2013 vintage, two new labels have joined the family: Las Viñas de Eusebio (€35, 1,800 bottles) comes from owned and rented vineyards in the vicinity of Laguardia whereas Losares (barely over 600 bottles) is a far deeper and concentrated red sourced from an old plot located in the village of Navaridas and planted in 1930. The single-vineyard range ends with Pozo Alto, first released in the 2015 vintage. This is an original, vibrant blend of Graciano and 20% Tempranillo and Garnacha sourced from a very specific area within a large vineyard in Leza (Rioja Alavesa).
Ribera del Arlanza is a newish appellation which covers vineyards around the village of Lerma in Burgos (Castilla y Léon), but Olivier’s project is specifically focused in Covarrubias, an area boasting high altitude vineyards with a distinctive microclimate. His project there started with two reds: El Cadastro (around €22, 4,000 bottles) a village wine made from grapes coming from three different locations; and El Quemado (around €45, 1,000 bottles), a single-vineyard wine; and the rare, white wine Basquevanas (around €50) which is not produced every year and comes mainly from Albillo Real grapes scattered among red vines. La Vallada (€11) was released later, its grapes sourced from a local wine grower.
Finally, Alto Redondo is a single-vineyard red coming from old Garnacha vines in Navarra that Olivier is painstakingly recovering. Yields are so low that it is rarely produced.