It takes a brave man to make Rioja without Tempranillo and without American oak but Olivier doesn’t lack confidence.
When I met him in the Loire and tasted the wines I asked if he used any American oak. He looked at me as if I was mad, (so did the group of Michelin Star Sommeliers I was with), that’s what I thought Rioja producers used! But this guy is no ordinary Rioja producer, he is French for one and his wines shine through the murky waters of heavy oak use and over extraction like a ray of Spanish sunshine. Native of Cognac, Olivier Rivière studied oenology in Montagne St-Emilion (Bordeaux region) and then worked at several estates before settling in Spain. Olivier first worked with Elian Da Ros in Marmandais, then at Domaine Leroy where his main interest was to learn about their biodynamic methods. Finally, he went on to Domaine de Chassorney to see how beautiful non-interventionist wines were made. With little money to get his own venture started, he bought a tiny 1 hectare vineyard in Arlanza, 1000 metres above sea level where day and night time temperatures differ by as much as 20 degrees. There he set about making biodynamic Tempranillo with a unique depth and freshness. A couple of years later, Olivier purchased a small vineyard in Rioja and now some of the most elegant examples of this very popular but often highly manipulated wine. For a taste of the other side of Rioja, Olivier’s wines are eye opening and absolutely delicious.