Rivera’s Portfolio Pyramid at Rigby’s

I recently popped along again to Rigby’s Deli and Dining Room on Leeson St., Dublin for dinner. I’ve written about Rigby’s and the delights of BYO previously, so you may already be aware that the menu at Rigby’s changes every day and diners are presented with the simple choice of meat or fish. Although I quite like that approach, it brings with it a big problem from a wine perspective – what wine to bring when you have no idea what you’ll be eating? The answer – lots of different things.

I had been in Galway a few days earlier and picked up a few bottles from the Rivera portfolio from Thomas Woodbery’s Wines. Rivera is a producer from Puglia in the Castel del Monte DOC and given that I already had a bottle of Il Falcone at home, I thought that trying some of their other wines over dinner with my friends would be fun. Rivera makes 19 different wines that can be broadly grouped into six different product families. The product families themselves are then further divided into three levels. Confused yet? Thankfully, there is a clear diagram explaining all this on the Rivera website – sort of like a wine version of the food pyramid. As luck would have it, Il Falcone is at the top of the pyramid with the other “Cru” wines and the other two wines I picked up were from the second level “Gli Autoctoni Castel del Monte” and the base level “I Classici Castel del Monte”.

Rupicolo 2009, which at €12.95 was the cheapest of the three bottles, is a blend of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Nero di Troia. It’s in the base level grouping, and, in my view, was a perfectly fine pizza and pasta wine; Good value and certainly very easy and enjoyable drinking with enough structure to maintain your interest. It went down well the pea and pancetta risotto that I had as a starter.

Next up was Il Falcone 2005 (70% Nero di Troia, 30% Montepulciano, €19.95). Even the most novice of drinkers would be able instantly recognise the step up in class from the first wine. What I liked most about it though was its restrained elegance, its charms evolving with each sip. Aromas of flowers and ripe red berry fruits were balanced against savoury notes of leather and tobacco. One of my dining companions was resolute in his assertion that the one of the prominent smells from the wine was that of fennel, although he also acknowledged that one man’s liquorice is another man’s fennel is another man’s star anise – we settled on the term ‘mildly aniseedy’ in the end I think. With its fine tannins and supporting acidity, its medium body neither overpowered nor was itself overpowered by the flavoursome chicken main course.

Unfortunately, we didn’t drink the wines in the logical order of vintage or quality so after the Il Falcone, we slid back down the middle of the portfolio pyramid with the Violante 2007 (100% Nero di Troia, €14.95). Maybe it was the name of the wine that lead me down the path of these associations, but for me the glass was dominated by a very intense violet, lavender and sweet berry perfume. I know one could just as easily read that description and think this wine was delicious, but it definitely wasn’t what I was looking for at the end of a filling meal. I didn’t record any other notes on the wine and I suspect that it wouldn’t be my cup of tea anyway.

Predictably, the hierarchy of the Rivera portfolio pyramid held true to form with the selection from the top “Cru” level showing as the best wine of the evening. I suspect the differences between the base and middle levels are mainly stylistic though and overall, we all felt that there was some good value to be had from this stable. Plus Nero di Troia is a bit different from your average Cabernet or Merlot so the wines are well worth trying if you come across them.