Domaine Jones – A vine romance
Posted on May 27 2021
Hailing from that hotbed of winemaking talent, Leicestershire, Katie Jones took a degree in French and set off for some work experience in France to practise her new-found skills and landed a job with a big Languedoc co-operative winery, which worked out well for many years.
Katie had a dream to own a vineyard and in 2008, she took the plunge and bought a beautiful tiny plot of gnarly old, low-yielding vines in the Roussillon. Katie’s roller coaster of a journey has presented her with many moments of doubt: back-breaking work in the vineyards and the brutal Tramontane wind during her first year very quickly dispelled any romantic vision she had.
However, before too long, her wines were being extraordinarily well-received and she bought more difficult-to-reach, stony vineyards planted with very old vines from heritage varieties that were falling into neglect. Some growers felt that yields were so low that they became unviable to farm. Katie identified the quality of the fruit and the potential to make some top-end wine in a region known for so long for its plonk. Slowly, Katie fell in love with the majestic wildness of this bucolic area and soon afterwards, she fell for fellow grape grower and wine maker, Jean-Marc.
The first time I came across the name Domaine Jones was in 2013 after an appeal for support following an incident of spiteful vandalism in her winery in which all of her white wine vats were drained away. I think some of the locals thought she was doing too well when they were struggling themselves. I felt compelled, along with many others, to help Katie in her hour of need.
A few years back, Katie acquired the historic, disused, stone-built train shed in Tuchan and converted it into a winery. I fondly recall sitting on the terrace outside the gare tasting with Katie; it was a hot, cloudless summer’s day, the warm wind blowing in scents of wild fennel and thyme from the surrounding garrigue and the view of the Pyrenees in a far distance was so picture-perfect I forgot to take a photo. This was the moment I fell for the area and for Katie’s wines too.
Katie has now settled on 12 hectares of vines, with a heightened focus on her sites of old, rare, deeply rooting varieties on the limestone of Mont Tauch and schist elsewhere, all of which she farms organically.
The roller coaster took a big dip this April when a late Spring frost hit one of her vineyards particularly badly and will significantly further reduce the yield this year.
In the meantime, two pallets of her wine have just landed and been distributed to all our shops and I am overjoyed to present my highlights:
An old-vine Carignan, Grenache & Syrah blend that is bursting with dark fruits – juicy black plum, fresh figs and dusty damsons - and sweet spice too. You get a thrilling sense of the joy of Jones in this wine.
From 110-year-old dry-farmed Carignan bush vines. The pitifully low yields offer up a wonderful concentration of flavours. It clearly reflects the terroir with tones of wild herbs and earth. Vivid red fruits will bounce ecstatically over your tongue. Limited quantities.
Most farmers would have ripped up these 80-year-old Macabeu bush vines decades ago. Once again, distressingly low yields bear amazingly expressive aromas of wild honeysuckle and ripe succulent pear flavours. This is opulent wine yet it has great energy. It also has considerable complexity, layered as it is with an olive leaf scent, freshly cracked walnuts and seashells. Overall, it is an intriguing and exquisite wine and a must-try. Limited quantities again.
This astonishing, rare as hen’s teeth, top of the range wine is made from Grenache Gris from a single vineyard and aged in barrel for at least three years! It opens with a blast of fresh vanilla, clove scented oak, followed by white flower, cut grass and peach aromas.
Back in 2009, Katie had aged some Grenache Gris in a new barrel and thought it was too oaky so she left it in a corner of the winery, topping it up occasionally. Four years later, the wine had morphed into a complex, slightly oxidised wine which she adored and bottled. I had a bottle of this ‘Sleeping Beauty’ of a wine in 2019 and I was totally transfixed and blown away by it. If you can, cellar a few bottles and let the spectacular salted caramel popcorn and pecan pie flavours fully emerge. Very limited quantities.