Past, present and future at Matavino Wines


‘It’s back to the future wine making,’ laughs Jim Hight. I’ve just sampled his intriguing 2017 Chardonnay that was aged in a clay amphora that Matavino uses in conjunction with oak barrels.

The clay amphorae really set Matavino apart and Jim is excited about the possibilities they offer. ‘In Greek and Roman times, they used to bury the amphora in the ground, throw everything in, put a layer of olive oil on top and pray. I’m trying to get back to basics and have less intervention, just let nature do its thing and the allow the fruit to express itself.’

Jim’s wine maker, Warren Knudsen (ex Mahurangi River), is excited by the potential of the clay pot, especially with the Barbera grapes which he’s not worked with before.

Matavino is a small, young vineyard but it produces five varieties of wine, with a strong emphasis on Italian reds. The Barbera variety is the current star of the crop and Jim is looking at doubling up on that and the Nebbiolo variety. Dolcetto is his third Italian red, and the whites are represented by the French – Chardonnay and Viognier.

The amphora does impart a flavour that is quite different from wooden barrels but one that Jim struggles to describe. ‘It’s more natural and there’s no oak flavour so more emphasis on the fruit.’

Jim has a real passion for Italy and its wines, and especially likes the idea of matching those varieties, along with the French whites, with local food. Food, wine and good company are what it is all about.

It’s great fun to go along and see the amphorae in action and sample the wines. Jim is developing the outdoor area next to the cellar so that you can enjoy the wine while looking out across the vines. He’s hoping to offer small food platters soon, in keeping with his philosophy of wine and food going together. The Matavino Cellar Door is open 11am to 5pm, Saturdays and Sundays, from Labour Weekend until Easter, or by phoning 021 62 11 24 to arrange an appointment.