WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

29 June 2011

Roussillon: Domaine Matassa, Calce

Updated March 2014 - see below.

Matassa is the name of the first vineyard bought in 2002 by Tom Lubbe (originally from South Africa although has worked in a few countries), his wife Nathalie (Gérard Gauby's sister) and Sam Harrop MW (a New Zealander winemaking consultant based in London); which is now part of 14 biodynamically farmed ha (35 acres) located roughly in two spots. Around the village of Calce, where they live and where the cellar is, and a fair way west of here near Le Viviers on the Fenouilledes hills at over 500 metres altitude. Tom is rather sceptical about 'appellation' and prefers to label their wines as vin de pays (now IGP) Côtes Catalanes, which he believes "... has more resonance for us and others around here."
I took that comment and the ones in this paragraph from a survey done over three years ago, so he might have changed his mind on some of these ideas; but I doubt it (read on for more views in the 2011/13 updates below). When asked about plans afoot in the region to create new 'cru' appellation zones, he said: "I think more bureaucracy is not so desirable, but that particular villages or areas will create, re-create their own identities for the future." Arguably, this is already happening in Calce (Matassa, Gauby, Padié, Pithon etc). And on the topic of organics, is it really a major asset for the Roussillon in particular? "It should be," but obviously still difficult to convince everyone...

I tasted this first batch of wines with Tom at Millésime Bio wine fair 2010 in Montpellier. The "three trees" wines are a new, earlier drinking (and less expensive) range, by the way.
2009 three trees blanc (Macabeu, Carignan blanc, Vermentino) - nice juicy leesy style with lively crisp finish. 85
2008 Marguerite blanc (Muscat, Viognier) - very intense mineral notes vs rich exotic and spicy aromas/flavours; lovely length and bite vs concentrated fruit and creamy lees tones. 89+
2008 Matassa blanc (Grenache gris, Macabeu) - nutty cider aromas with again that intense mineral side vs oily, concentrated peachy and peppery. Wow. 90-92
2009 three trees Cabernet Franc - reduced notes on the nose (not a finished wine sample) but has attractive, spicy, leafy, tobacco edges and red fruit cocktail; appealing "sweet" vs spicy/savoury finish. 85+
2009 three trees Grenache / Carignan - enticing lively juicy style with liquorice flavours and soft peppery palate. 85+
2007 Romanissa rouge - also a tad reduced, leading on to firmer closed up palate; yet again shows delicious spicy liquorice leather and wild berry notes, intense powerful finish needing 1 to 2 years to come together. 90+
2006 Romanissa (mostly Grenache & Carignan + Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon) - slightly wild, volatile and complex nose; intense concentrated berries and spice, a tad of background oak adding texture, lively peppery finish turning meaty/savoury with hints of leather. 90-92


Update May/June 2011:
I caught up with Tom at the first ‘natural’ wine fair held in London (click there for more info). On the much talked-about issue of 'low-sulphite' winemaking (yawn), the show organiser wrote this in the catalogue: “For us, low sulphite levels means that the grower is ultimately aiming to add little or no SO2 (sulphur dioxide) at all… dependant (sic.) on the year.” Tom told me he sets a more technical level for this at “less than 20 milligrams per litre total SO2 in bottle,” which is readily measurable in a lab and about one-fifth to one-tenth of what might be in a ‘normal’ wine (and permitted). It's worth adding that all wine contains some sulphites, even if no SO2 is added, as a natural by-product of fermentation etc. Tom also talked about copper based treatments, the traditional ‘natural’ choice for combating e.g. a particular type of mildew, as copper (present in the human organism in minute quantities but toxic at higher levels) can hang around and pollute rivers. “In a well-run organic or biodynamic vineyard (i.e. not using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, working the soil in the old-fashioned way etc.), you don’t see a build up of copper… or a desert effect…” as a living soil manages to diffuse these solutions. And something else missing from the NWF’s manifesto is sulphur itself, which is also a mainstay of organic viticulture in a ‘natural’ form.

These wines are priced from about £6 to £20 in the UK, available via their agent Les Caves de Pyrène. Reviews feature my new 1 to 3 "scoring" system (see right hand column for explanation).
2009 Three Trees Le Cayrol white (Macabeu, Rolle, Chenin Blanc) – zesty mineral side with nutty edges, juicy fruit palate with fairly delicate yet tight finish. 1
2009 Three Trees Metairie Brugens red (Cabernet Franc) – herbal red pepper and soy sauce notes, juicy fruity vs crisper finish. 1
2009 Marguerite white (Muscat, Viognier) – quite rich and exotic peach/apricot fruit vs appley twist and mineral bite, attractive combo of these two varieties with fair substance too. 1-2
2008 Domaine Matassa white (Grenache gris, Macabeu) – toastier and ‘fatter’ with enticing hazelnut edges, tangy and intense too with good concentration, dry long and exciting finish. 2-3
2006 Domaine Matassa ‘Romanissa’ red (Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon) – maturing savoury nose with rich dried fruit, firm vs ‘sweet’ palate with a touch of grainy tannin and grip vs lovely maturing fruit. 2+
2008 L’Estanya red (Carignan) – intense ‘sweet/savoury’ style, black vs crunchier blue fruit cocktail, perfumed vs liquorice finish. 1+

Update: 2011 vintages sampled with Tom in London in 2013:
2011 Marguerite blanc (Muscat, Macabeu; total sulphites 12 mg/l) – nutty 'Fino' and apple notes, intense and tangy getting creamier and more hazelnut on the finish, long bite and quite elegant too.
2011 Matassa blanc (Grenache gris, Macabeu) - yeast lees notes and intense with aromatic vs richer fruit, concentrated and lush vs lees-y and appley bite, tasty and very long finish.
2011 Matassa red (Carignan, Lladoner Pelut, Mourvèdre and other varieties) - smoky yet 'inky', pretty wild fruity with soft blue fruits, pure and intense with nice freshness on the finish too.

Previous Matassa wines here (Vinisud show 2006).

10 Route d'Estagel, 66600 CalceTel: 04.68.64.10.13, www.matassawine.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment