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Olivier Rivière

With vineyards in Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa and splitting his time between his own wines and consulting […]

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Olivier Rivière

With vineyards in Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa and splitting his time between his own wines and consulting with other producers, it would be an understatement to say that Olivier Rivière is busy. Initially lured to Spain in 2004 by Telmo Rodriguez to convert his vineyards to biodynamics, Olivier came to appreciate the rich history of Rioja and the diversity of its soils and grape varieties. In 2006, he started his own project, and owing to the high cost of land in Rioja, he traded his farming talents for access to grapes from the best sites he could locate while investing in restoring and replanting vineyards in the red clay soils of Cárdenas.

Olivier was born and raised south of Bordeaux in Cognac. He later studied enology in Montagne St-Emilion, focusing on biodynamic farming, followed by practical experience there and later in Burgundy. The list of estates where he has worked is impressive, from the most dedicated fans of natural wines (Elian da Ros & Domaine de Chassorney) to ultra-traditionalists (Domaine Leroy.) When his plans to set up a Domaine in Fitou fell through, Olivier decided to spend a few years consulting in Spain, but with a growing fascination with Rioja’s terruño, he became one of the region’s pioneers of site-specific wines.

Coming from France, Olivier has an innate sense of terroir. Unlike many of his peers in Rioja, he bases his cuvées not on political boundaries or the length of barrel aging but on soil. He believes in a quality hierarchy inspired by Burgundy, with generic Appellation and Village wines at the base and Premier and Grand cru wines at the top. This is how to understand best what Olivier is doing in Rioja, instead of the traditional classification of wines based on aging. Despite a couple of challenging vintages with short crops, rising prices, and the loss of some vineyard leases, Olivier has managed to expand his production of distinct wines while refining their sense of place. Just as Olivier was settling in Cárdenas, where most of his vines are located, he purchased a property back in Bordeaux. Always restless and intent on a challenge, Olivier splits his time between his two projects with his brother Mateo, who assists in managing all the work in Rioja.

In keeping with his education and advocation, nearly all of Olivier’s vineyards are farmed organically with biodynamic practices. The fruit is harvested by hand, and each variety is fermented separately. Depending on the source, it may be partially destemmed or fermented whole cluster. Fermentations are with indigenous yeasts. Macerations are gentle and short. Aging takes place in stainless steel, cement tanks, foudres, or barrels, with each container chosen to benefit the expression of the terroir. SO2 is kept to a minimum, usually added only before bottling. There is no precise recipe, only the guiding principles of minimal intervention and taste. These are not your grandparent’s Riojas, nor are they your parents. These wines represent a new approach that relies almost entirely on the specificity of site and the transparency of winemaking necessary to capture it.


“Everything suggests that Rivière will become a major figure in Spanish winemaking in the not-too-distant future. We should keep an eye on him.”

– Jesús Barquín, Luis Gutiérrez & Victor de la Serna, The Finest Wines of Rioja & Northwest Spain
Rioja, Spain
  • Location
    Rioja, Spain
  • Primary Appellation
  • Proprietor
    Olivier Rivière
  • Winemaker
    Olivier Rivière
  • Size / Elevation
    25 hectares / 350–1000 meters
  • Age of Vines
    15–90+ years
  • Farming
  • Varieties
    Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca
  • Cellar
    Hand harvested, whole or partially whole cluster fermentations with indigenous yeasts, aged in tank, foudre or demi-muid
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