It was in the early 1900s that Giuseppe de Corato acquired the vast Rivera tenuta, or estate, in the territory of Andria, and planted it to vines, olives, and grain. Fifty years later, his son Sebastiano founded the Azienda Vinicola Rivera, inspired by his vision of realising the enormous viticultural potential of the Castel del Monte area. The old cellar was renovated, the vineyards replanted, and that era's most up-to-date practices adopted, and high-quality wine was the result.
Widespread recognition quickly followed, and Rivera became the benchmark of Apulia wine production and the force driving its rebirth. Sebastiano's single-minded dedication to quality, and that of his son Carlo, brought about a remarkable innovation: the introduction into the estate vineyards of noble grape varieties from other regions, such as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
The long, patient efforts that followed were rewarded with the incorporation of those varieties into the production code of the Castel del Monte D.O.C. The entry into the Rivera firm of Carlo's son, Sebastiano, signalled a rededication to its values, in a dynamic mode, and a sharply-focused approach to the market, with emphasis falling on developing the area's native varieties, in order to produce wines of significant quality and distinctiveness, wines that would reflect the world of colours, of scents, of flavours that make up the land of Apulia.
Rivera's drive for top quality begins with the uncompromising management programme for its 95 hectares of estate vineyards. Trained to the spur-pruned cordon system at a density of some 4,800 vines per hectare to ensure low yields, they are divided into three main sections.
The first two, Torre di Bocca and Coppa vineyards, are planted at elevations ranging from 200 to 220 metres on deep calcareous tufa soils, and predominantly to red grape varieties. The third section, the Lama di Corvo vineyard, is higher up, between 320 and 350 metres, in the rough, rocky hills of the Murgia; this altitude is perfect for ripening white varieties. A handful of trusted grapegrowers supply the remainder of the grapes that are needed.
The Castel del Monte D.O.C., which regulates one of the most exceptional growing areas in Apulia, could hardly be given any other name but that of its most illustrious symbol.
The D.O.C. zone, north of Bari, covers all the areas of the Alta Murgia that slope down towards the Adriatic, including two that share the same Mediterranean climate but are quite different in soil types and landscape.
Above 300 metres reigns the rocky plateau of the Murgia; among the pastures and cultivated fields are the traditional vineyards trained a spalliera bassa, or with low vertical canopies, planted in the low-lying lame where their roots can find nourishment even in the driest summers.
Between 180 and 300 metres, on the other hand, the pre-Murgia zone is characterised by deep, calcareous-tufa soils that host an endless series of olive groves, vineyards, and golden fields of grain.
The traditional varieties here are native grapes, the white Pampanuto and Bombino Bianco, and the red Bombino Nero, Nero di Troia, Montepulciano, and Aglianico, plus - thanks specifically to research done by Rivera -, the foreign white varieties Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, which are now included in D.O.C. regulations.