Yesterday was something of a French classic, a white Bordeaux, with a family run producer making wine that has a history in the region dating back generations. Today, it’s a different take on the concept of heritage from some unlikely characters in the form of this Domaine Matassa Cuvée Nougé 2005.
This is a Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, much like the Domaine Lafage Carignan I wrote about back in July. However, a quick recap might be useful. VDP can be wine of three different types of geographic designations, and from largest to smallest they are regional, departmental and local. The larger the area, the more flexibility a producer has in terms of where they source their grapes. In addition, some regional designations are both familiar internationally and fairly well regarded such as Vin de Pays d’Oc.
Côtes Catalanes is situated in the south of France near the border with Spain. When I wrote about the Domaine Lafage Carignan I mentioned the warm, Mediterranean climate and the soils, which vary from a combination of decomposed shale and clay with poor drainage through to schist marble and limestone hills, and gravel as you near the sea. However, I didn’t say anything about Catalonia.
I prefer to focus on wine and not politics, so I’ll be brief. Catalonia is at present one of the autonomous communities of Spain. Historically the Principality of Catalonia included area which is now across the border in France, and the region as a whole has a unique language and culture. Many producers, such as this one, have chosen therefore to use the Côtes Catalanes designation instead of the more widely known Côtes du Roussillon or d’Oc.
Speaking of this producer, Domaine Matassa was founded by Tom Lubbbe, Nathalie Gauby and Sam Harrop MW in 2002. Lubbe, apparently born in New Zealand but brought up in South Africa, worked in Swartland and Bordeaux prior to arriving in the Côtes Catalanes and working at Domaine Gauby where he met Nathalie Gauby. Her family has run the Domain for generations, selling grapes through a co-operative until 1985 when they started making their own wine. It is now regarded as a top Roussillon estate. Harrop is a Master of Wine and consultant winemaker, having previously make wine in his native New Zealand, as well as California and Australia, before working with Marks and Spencer, a hugely influential UK retailer.
After the initial purchase of the Clos Matassa vineyard near Le Vivier at 500-600m altitude on granitic soils, the Domaine expanded with the purchase of a number of neighbouring parcels and additional vineyards near Calce, 20km to the east on schist and marl soils at altitudes of 150-200m. Most vineyards are between 60 and 120 years old, and consist of traditional Catalan varieties such as Carignan, Grenache, Maccabeu, Grenache Gris, Muscat of Alexandria and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, while the younger vineyards have Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier. Cabernet Franc, Carignan Blanc, Vermentino, Rolle and Chenin Blanc have also been known to feature in their wines. Grapes are grown organically, and biodynamic techniques are employed in the vineyard. Vineyards are plowed, in some cases by mules.
Most wines produced are blends, some co-fermented field blends. Whites are made by tightly packing whole bunches into a basket press and ageing in 600l old oak barrels. Reds are fermented as whole bunches with some initial foot crushing, and then transferred to 600l old oak barrels halfway through and kept there for an additional 18-24 months, including malolactic fermentation.
Before I get to this wine itself, a quick note about the grapes. Maccabeu as it is known in Roussillon and printed on the back label, may be more familiar as Viura in Rioja or Macabeo more generally. Details can be found in my write up of a varietal example from Borsao, while more information about Muscat is available in my post on the Schild Estate Frontignac and notes about Viognier are given in my Yalumba Virgilius post.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a medium minus lemon green colour and film, not legs, when swirled. On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium plus intensity, and notes of lemon and green apple. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity, and medium length. There are notes of lime, mandarin, and a bit of saltiness that made me think of Gatorade. (Note, I have very fond memories of Gatorade going back 30 years to when I was a child playing soccer, so I mean that in the best of all possible ways.)
This is a good wine. I was initially worried that I had left this bottle in the cellar for too long but it’s holding up well – still developing on the nose. I don’t know that I would have wanted to give it another seven years, but the fruit is still fresh. I didn’t get a great deal of complexity beyond some lively citrus, but it was well balanced with a pleasing flavour profile.
Pin in the map is the village of Calce where the producer’s cellar is based, but I have no street address.