Grapes: Muscat of Alexandria + Macabeu + Muscat Petit Grain
Viticulture: Organic + Biodynamic
Soils: Limestone + Clay
Vinification: Two week whole-cluster maceration. Fermented in concrete vats
Aging: In concrete vats
Fining or Filtering: None
Notes from the Importer: How does a New Zealander who grew up in South Africa end up starting an iconoclastic estate in the Roussillon? This isn't exactly an everyday occurrence, but so it goes for Tom Lubbe of Domaine Matassa. In the late 90's, Tom was working at the only estate in South Africa using indigenous yeasts and lower yields. Interested in working with Mediterranean varietals,Tom managed to score a three month internship at the legendary Domaine Gauby in the village of Calce. Gérard Gauby quickly befriended Tom and asked him to come back for three consecutive vintages as a cellar hand. During that time, Tom met his wife Nathalie, who just so happens to be Gérard's sister.
The birth of their first child made Tom reconsider moving back to South Africa, opting instead to stay in Calce to start his own estate. Matassa was founded in 2003, with the first vintage entirely produced in the recently married couple's living room. Gérard felt so bad about this that he gave Tom the old Gauby cellar in 2004!
The vineyards are worked naturally without any chemical aids and Tom is certified organic by Ecocert. And while he does occasionally use biodynamic techniques to activate and nourish his soils, over the years this has become less of a priority. Instead, an adamant dedication to cover crops has completely transformed his soils and in turn the wines. Tom is convinced that the increased insect life within the soils, particularly worms, has changed the flavors of his wines. Another shocking effect: a drastic drop in alcohol. Tom has always harvested much earlier than most, usually starting with the Muscat in early August. In 2005, they would typically reach a potential of 13.5% alcohol. In 2018, they came in around 10.5%.
Much has also changed in the cellar over the years. All the wines have now intentionally been declassified to Vin de France. As mentioned above, the alcohol is much lower, rarely more than 12%. The white wines are all macerated on their skins, a choice that goes back to "Alexandria" 2008, the first Matassa wine of its kind. For the reds, whole-cluster infusions take precedent to maceration and extraction, with white grapes often co-fermented. If oak is used, it is not to bring structure to the wine but rather oxygen. Longer élevages have been abandoned to bottle wines much earlier. Everything is bottled without filtration or fining. Sulfur, which Tom had used judiciously in the past, has not been added to any of the production since the 2015 vintage.