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Olivier Riviere Pozo Alto 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).

According to records, Pozo Alto was registered in 1930, but it was most likely planted well before this time, so the vines are about 90 years old. At the foot of the Sierra de Cantabria just outside the village of Leza, Pozo Alto has a sandy clay soil of decomposed limestone and sandstone. This site is planted mainly with Graciano with smaller amounts of Tempranillo and Garnacha – making it rather unique as Graciano fell out of favor after phylloxera. 2015 is the inaugural vintage of this wine, but due to hail in August, 85% of the crop was lost, resulting in only a couple of barrels. In the future and with normal yields, Pozo Alto will be aged in foudre and French oak demi-muids instead of barriques.

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