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Olivier Riviere La Vallada MMXVll Rioja


What happens when you take a well trained French winemaker and place him in Spain’s most prestigious wine region? Magic. Olivier Rivière was born and raised in the southwestern French region of Cognac. Having studied oenology in Montagne St-Emilion, he plied and honed his skills in Bordeaux and Burgundy. His intention was to start making wine in the region of Fitou, but this plan was shelved following a trip to Spain. In 2004 he was brought to Rioja Alavesa by famed winemaker Telmo Rodriguez, who asked Oliver to help convert his vineyards to biodynamic farming. Smitten by the region, he never left. Today he either rents or owns 25 hectares of vines in Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental. Planted between 350 to 1000 meters in elevation, his oldest vines are over 90 years in age and include Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. He hand harvests his fruit in 14-kilogram bunches to avoid blemishes, and manually sorts through the grapes at the winery within 30 minutes of them being picked. He whole-cluster ferments each variety separately using natural fermentation and ages the wines in a mixture of tanks, foudres and demi-muids. Taking a page from his previous experience, he grades his wines based on the Burgundian model (ie, regional wine, village wine, premier cru, and grand cru).

La Vallada is a 2.5 hectare enclosed vineyard – Vallada meaning enclosed – at an elevation of 950m from which Olivier sources young vine Tempranillo for this cuvée. Olivier considers this cuvée to be his Covarrubias Village wine. Because of this site’s youth, Olivier gently destems the fruit destined for La Vallada, keeping the whole berries intact. The fruit is then carefully layered in a fermentation tank, with any overflow being fermented in small bins. The weight of the grapes and the native yeasts causes fermentation to begin naturally. Extraction and macerations are very gentle, resulting in a small percentage of the fruit fermenting by carbonic maceration.

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