Rivera is one of the most important wineries in northern Puglia, and a number of years ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to a vertical of Il Falcone, the ageworthy red wine they made (and make) with the finest of their red grapes, the bulk of which were at one time instead destined to making rosato, which has always been popular in Puglia and rightly so.
It was a memorable occasion, and this year they very kindly sent me their new releases, which include a Fiano I do not recall having tasted before. With wines like these it is best to cut to the quick and discuss them:
Rivera Scariazza Fiano Puglia IGT 2010
Lot 14330 Brassy gold with brilliant brassy reflections. the bouquet is powerful, with rich savory butterscotch supported by gunflint and lemony fruit with fairly intense bitter undertones and nice minerality. Considerable power, but with restraint. On the palate it's ample, and quite savory, with considerable mineral laced citric fruit supported by a certain languid fullness derived from glycerin (I think) and abundant sea salt that leads into a long savory finish. Quite pleasant, and will drink very well with elegant roasted or grilled fish, and is also a wine that will age nicely for at least 3-5 years. As a general rule I prefer Fiano that's unoaked, because oak tends to mask some of the varietal characteristics, but I am not objecting here. 90
Rivera Pungirosa Bombino Nero Castel del Monte DOC 2011
Lot N66GC Lively almost electric rose pink with brilliant reflections and rim that pales to white. The bouquet is fresh, with some raspberry fruit supported by heather and slight alcohol, and by underlying raspberry and forest berry fruit acidity. Refreshing. On the palate it's bright and fresh, with moderately intense raspberry fruit supported by light tannins that have slightly flinty brambly burr and by some greenish acidity, which lead into a fairly ling warm slightly greenish finish. It's quite fresh, a classic summer wine that will work very well with cool dishes, and also be a nice picnic or cookout wine, in the latter case for those who don't want a red (and you can expect some of those who generally drink reds to choose it instead). 88-90
Rivera Violante Nero di Troia Castel del Monte DOC 2008
Lot LM301H Deep violet ruby with black reflections and violet towards the rim. The bouquet is fresh, with spicy berry fruit supported by dusky shadowy accents and some Marseilles soap, which gives way to sandalwood spice and some sea salt. Quite a bit going on in a fresh key. On the palate it's fairly light, with deft cherry fruit that has some black currant accents, and is supported by fairly mineral acidity, and by tannins that have a distinctly graphitic bitter vein to them, and flow into a fairly long rather bitter graphite laced dark berry fruit finish. It's deft, and quite tannic, a hallmark of Nero di Troia, and because of this not a sipping wine, but one that will go quite well with succulent grilled meats, for example lamb chops. If you like smoother sorter wines it won't work for you, but if you like this sort of tannic structure you will enjoy it. 2 stars
Rivera Puer Apuliae Nero di Troia Castel del Monte DOC 2007
Lot ?433AR (first letter illegible) Inky pyrope that stays inky almost to the rim, where it does pale to deep ruby. The bouquet is fairly intense, with red berry fruit laced with blackberry fruit and supported by a fair amount of cedar and some greenish vegetal accents; it's more powerful than Violante, and also more international in feel. On the palate it's ample and very smooth, with fairly rich plum cherry fruit supported by moderate berry fruit acidity and by tannins that are very smooth and have slight savory notes to them, and lead into a clean rather savory finish with some mineral acidity. It's quite elegant, and quite polished, and succeeds perfectly in what it is obviously intended to be, which is an international gateway towards Apulian wines; the fruit is Nero di Troia, while the tannins are more polished and smoother than Nero di Troia's would be if left to their own devices, and the wine is therefore more approachable and something one could drink by the glass. As to whether it is more interesting is another matter; I have always found Puer Apuliae impressive, but have always preferred Violante, because in it the varietal shines though more clearly, and this pair of vintages is no exception. If you are unfamiliar with Nero di Troia, and would like to start with a powerful, smoother interpretation, this is a good place to start. If you are more adventuresome, I would go directly to Violante. 2 stars
Rivera Cappellaccio Aglianico Castel del Monte DOC Riserva 2006
Lot LM652F Deep black almandine with black reflections paling slightly but remaining almandine in the rim. The bouquet is intense, with red berry fruit laced with leather and some leaf tobacco, and supported by considerable underbrush with some mineral acidity; there's something rather exotic and seductive about it. On the palate it's deft, with fairly rich leaf tobacco laced berry fruit supported by savory tannins and fairly bright mineral acidity that flow into a tannic finish with a leaf tobacco and graphite shaving burr that continues at length. Pleasant, in a rather powerful key, and still quite young; it's a wine that demands more flavorful meats, along the lines of leg of lamb or a well marbled porterhouse steak cooked rare, and that also has considerable aging capacity. 90-92
Rivera Il Falcone Castel del Monte DOC Riserva 2006
Lot LM971G Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, and still quite young, with mentholated berry fruit supported by fairly intense dusky spice and some underlying greenish accents, and also fairly intense minerality. It's not quite a work in progress, but more towards that side of the spectrum. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth, with powerful cherry and forest berry fruit supported by minerality and warm cedar laced tannins that flow into a clean warm berry fruit finish with pronounced cedar accents, and while it is pleasant, and displays considerable depth, it is also obviously young, younger than the Cappellaccio, and will reward those with the patience to give it another 3-5 years; I would expect it to age well for a decade or more, and be much better in the future than it is now. 88-90
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.