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We visited Tom Lubbe at his winery for a full day, and it was one to remember. A relaxed lunch over a barbecued leg of lamb, accompanied by some of the older Matassa vintages – a reminder that Tom was making natural wine long before it hit the headlines of the gastronomic world.
Born in South Africa and raised in New Zealand, Tom makes wine in Roussillon, part of the Côtes Catalanes. The wines from Domaine Matasse flourish not only through their execution but also through their diversity: orange wines which macerate the skins of white grapes; pink wines that carry the lightness Tom frequently talks about; red wines which are fermented in whole bunches with their stems still intact.
In Tom’s words: ‘Real wine is taking additives out of the equation and putting grapes to the front.’
Tom wanted to work in a hot climate, compatible with his experience in South Africa. Having worked with Louise Hofmeyer (at the time, the only estate in South Africa using exclusively indigenous yeasts), he was given the recommendation to work a 3 month stage at Domaine Gauby in Calce. Gérard Gauby invited him back for three more vintages as a cellar helper, during which time he met Gérard’s sister, Nathalie, who he married and now has two children with.
Tom makes wines that he likes to drink himself, ‘pale reds and dark whites’ which offer a freshness to combat the hot, heavy climate in Roussillon. To deal with this climate, Tom harvests earlier than most – resulting in wines with a low ABV (rarely above 12%) that only adds to their freshness. He considers soil health a fundamental component of winemaking and is proactive when it comes to employing biodynamic techniques such as composting and cover crop to enrich the soil in his vineyards. The number of earthworms and general life in the soil has risen significantly since Tom took over the vineyards – lowering the pH in the soil and resulting in well-balanced wines.
Highly adaptive in both the vineyard and the cellar, Tom works with all types of vessel including large wooden barrels, barrique, clay and concrete, but fiberglass is his preference, finding it more neutral than stainless steel.
For many, these iconic wines need little introduction, but if you haven’t tried them yet, now is your chance!