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Tom Lubbe is one of the original natural wine pioneers; both in South Africa, and in the Roussillon. With Matassa, his goal is to preserve the old vines of this southern French region, and to regenerate soil health by improving organic matter. His skin contact whites and light reds are about as delicious as they come.

"There was no business plan, that's for sure... Matassa happened. It was just a moment, a person, a place, a lot of things colliding..."

People:  Tom & Nathalie Lubbe

Place:  Roussillon, France

Varieties:  Grenache, Lledoner Pelut (an ancient variant of Grenache with hairy leaves and a slightly more rustic charm, which is found in the Romanissa vineyard—named after the rosemary that grows there), Grenache Gris, Macabeu, Muscat d’Alexandrie and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains

Hectares:  20 

Farming:  Organic with elements of biodynamics 

Wines: Click here

Did You Know? Tom grew up between South Africa and New Zealand, and it was while living in Auckland that he got into wine, working in a wine shop. When apartheid came to an end, he decided to move back to SA. It was only many years later that he would fall in love and lay roots in the Roussillon.

Tom has always worked organically, and the focus is on improving the organic matter of the soil—a task he says he'll continue to tackle until he's too old to farm. It might sound romantic, and the photograph from the 50s might look beautiful, but it's a colossal amount of work.

"We're not talking about one or two tons of compost. We're talking about fifty, or even one hundred, to get a vineyard to really perform. The logistics of that are phenomenal. I started with a lot of enthusiasm for biodynamic preparations, and I still have fondness for them, but we have to prioritise this very simple, non-mystical, mechanical operation. It just comes down to organisation, people and machines. We might be raising the earthworm population from 200kg per hectare (from a low organic matter situation where the vineyard was being farmed chemically), to 2000kg per hectare over a three-four year period, and beyond. That's equivalent to a few cows' worth (in weight) of earthworms working for you under the soil."

"Both of my first wines were fermented naturally, and I bottled them by hand without sulphur. I remember when people tasted them. They were like, Tom, what the f&^k is this? Other people were checking their daily additions lists, adding and dissolving powder. But to me, it seemed very simple and logical, why not just make wine from grapes? It must be possible. It wasn’t enough for me to add all this s&%t to wine and to say I was doing a good job. It also wouldn’t...

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