Olivier Rivière Gabaxo 2014
Although winemaking in Rioja goes back centuries, its international reputation was made in the mid-nineteenth century by French producers fleeing the phylloxera which was ravaging Bordeaux at the time. They introduced practices such as attention to quality, site selection, and ageing wine in oak. The wines of Rioja developed from young, fruity wines drunk by pilgrims on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela to serious, mature wines drunk around the world.
Here’s a modern Rioja which combines these different elements of Rioja's history. It's made by a Frenchman from near Bordeaux, continuing that relationship between the two great wine regions. Olivier Rivière moved to Rioja in 2004 to work as a winemaker at another winery, before quickly setting up his own in 2006. He's one of the Rioja'n'Rollistas, a small group of young, dynamic winemakers determined to showcase the less traditional side of Rioja.
A mixture of old and new is at the heart of "Gabaxo," which is an unflattering local word for a Frenchman who's moved across the border into Spain. It's lush and fruity, with a ripe, juicy palate that makes me think of those thirsty pilgrims walking across the north of Spain, their palates quenched by the red wine they'd picked up while travelling through Rioja. But this wine also has a serious structure; aged in old oak barrels, there's a firm grip, some spiciness, and depth to those ripe aromas. It's only three years old, and there's a youthful immediacy to the wine which makes it very enjoyable to drink now - or if you have the patience, another five years will soften the ripe aromas and add some earthy maturity. This is Rioja at its most engaging and drinkable.
Grape Variety: 50% Tempranillo, 50% Garnacha
Region: Rioja, Spain
Ageing: 12 months in large, old oak barrels
Food pairing: pizza; lamb; hard cheese.