Sunday, October 28, 2018

Domaine Jones Fitou in The Guardian

This article made my day.  To read in a national newspaper (in this case The Guardian Feast magazine) that my wine 'takes Fitou to the next level' is totally amazing especially when it's the brilliant Fiona Beckett who says it.

It is basically what we have been trying to do for the past 10 years by using only old vines with extremely small yields.  It seems to have paid off :-))))
For the full article click here

The 2016 vintage is available at The Wine Society or from my website.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Harvest 2018 - sunshine and smiles

We started Domaine Jones’ 10th harvest (yes 10 years already) on the 27th August a week later than last year, which was particularly early, but a week earlier than previous vintages.

We have 14 tiny vineyards that make up 12 hectares and we hand pick absolutely everything!

We started with the Grenache Gris from our original 90 year old vineyard in Maury, followed by the old vine Grenache blanc and Macabeu in Tuchan.

I think those old vines in Maury must have been having a rest this year as they only managed to produce 50% of last year’s yield.  So a miniscule vintage which was fortunately compensated by a slightly higher yield from the vines in Tuchan.

Everything that has come in though has been perfectly healthy and at optimum ripeness thanks to the amazing vineyard talent of Monsieur Jones.  No mean feat for a vintage that was particularly difficult given heavy rain in the spring and a resulting abundunce of grass in the vineyards.  Perhaps not the best year to start our conversion into organic production but we had to employ an extra person and buy another strimmer to keep on top of it.

The resulting juice has been well balanced with less sugar than usual and surprisingly a slightly lower acidity. The freshly pressed juice smells delicious and ferments have so far finished on 3 of the vats producing wines that show great varietal character – grenache gris mineral, lean and stoney, grenache blanc - fruity and plumper and the macabeu lovely ripe pear character and more weighty.

The grapes were easy to press with a high juice content although the press were difficult to settle.

On the reds we have picked everything except for 2 small vineyards of carignan which we will probably pick at the end of this week.

We started with the syrah which ripens first, then the grenache and the hairy grenache and finally the carignan which takes a bit longer to ripen.

Despite a small heatwave in July which made everyone talk about an early harvest, the ripening of the reds has been slow and on a couple of occasions we have held back our 15 strong team of pickers and delayed picking by a couple of days.

In the 10 vintages we have done I have never seen such juicy grapes and such intensely fragrant juice. We do 2 rack and returns a day which involves taking the fermenting juice from the vat and then pumping it gently back over the skins and the Gare du Vin winery is just filled with fresh red fruit flavours – strawberry, blackcurrent and raspberry.

The ferments just totally have a mind of their own though.  Almost as soon as the grapes see the vat they start to ferment so you have to be really quick with the cooling as otherwise ferments would be over before you have had time to gently extract all the flavour and structure from the skins.  We put our grapes in a cooling room overnight to get a bit more control but even at cold temperature the red ferments are quick, very quick. 

It is early days but we can already see that the syrah are intensely perfumed and dark in colour and the grenache are slightly lighter in colour than usual.  We wait to see what the carignan will be like - and of course the hairy grenache.

Fingers crossed that the 10th Domaine Jones harvest will be the best one yet!!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fennel in my armchair

Before the beginning of this year I don't think I had ever tried fennel before - quite simply because I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

'Fenouil' also rates as the second hardest word to say in french just behind 'fauteuil' (armchair).

But one morning at the organic market at Place de la République in Perpignan I couldn't resist the fresh aniseed perfume coming from the fennel box any longer.

And now I think I've become an addict.  In winter we oven roast it with tomatoes and now that summer is on its way we slice it very thinly with celery, add olive oil and lemon juice.  Both are absolutely delicious especially with a glass of my Grenache Gris.

I'm not sure if there is a fennel growing season but I very much hoping there isn't.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Hard graft

I’ve been in Tuchan now for 25 years and last week I witnessed something I’ve never seen before – how to graft a vine.

Jean-Marc wanted to rejuvenate a neglected Syrah vineyard and the whole process was totally fascinating.  Back in December, Jean-Marc had booked up one of the few  ‘grafters’ in our area.  They are a Portuguese family and we were the first vineyard they were doing this season.   As there is a limited window in which you can graft vines they already had bookings for a further 30 000 vines over the next 6 weeks.  

However, when they arrived they almost turned around and went back home again as we had failed to dig out the earth around each vine.  Jean-Marc had hoped that given the recent rain this wouldn’t be a major task and the grafters could do it themselves.  But the soil had set like concrete - three pickaxes, a lot of muscle power and sweat later, Jean-Marc had to agree that he had been slightly optimistic.

Once the area around the root is cleared the grafter uses a powerful pair of secateurs to cut through the trunk of the vine. 

He then makes an incision and taps in two scions and binds them with raffia before covering the whole graft with soil.  This technique is called cleft grafting and the skill is not only in preparing the rootstock but also in whittling the scions so that there is the maximum amount of cambium (single layer of cells just below the bark) to ensure a successful graft.

It took the team of five grafters and four last-minute labourers eight hours to graft 430 vines but by the end of the day, Jean-Marc had a brand new vineyard.

All of the vines in Tuchan are grafted.  Phylloxera devastated most French vineyards in around 1890 and the only cure was to plant phylloxera-resistant American rootstock and graft the scion on to the roots.

Grafting was commonplace and French farmers would plant the American rootstock in year 1 and graft on the scion in year 2.  

From the 1970s, it was easier and much less time-consuming to buy prepared plants from specialist nurseries.  The prepared plants have the American rootstock and the selected graft all ready to be planted.

So why would you still bother to graft today?  Jean-Marc says that it can take up to 20 years for a vine to establish its root structure because our soils are so stony and dry.  If you graft vines on to the existing rootstock then you can harvest within two years because of the vigour from the roots.  If you plant a vineyard from scratch you have to wait four years to harvest. 

It also means that if you have the trellising wires in place then you don’t have to take them up and put them back.  And believe me, taking up and knocking in posts in our stony hard soils is no mean task. 

I did get very excited about the idea of being able to change the grape varieties overnight at Domaine Jones so that I could up my production of Carignan Gris and Lledoner Pelut but Jean-Marc was very quick – in fact extremely quick - to point out that it will only work on younger more vigorous vines!

See the whole grafting process in this video.

In the press

If you’re after inspiration for new wines to try this month, why not go on recommendation from three of the UK’s top wine-writers. My press highlights this month include two shout outs for my Domaine Jones Grenache Noir - a ‘Star Buy’ in The Scotsman and a superb write up in  - and, also I'm super excited to be featured in Will Lyons' column in The Sunday Times Magazine.

Will Lyons, The Sunday Times Magazine, 22nd April 2018 
Will’s article sums up what we set out to prove at Domaine Jones – this little corner of the Mediterranean is a fantastic part of the world for making wine. And as Will says: ‘a new wave of talent and investment has created pockets of excellence’. Yes, we are making wines that can compete with the best from anywhere in the world and offer amazing value too. 
‘Ten years ago Katie Jones gave up a marketing job to set up her own winery in Fitou, west of Perpignan, learning along the way from the Australian wine consultant David Morrison. The wine is pretty good: medium-bodied and smooth, full of rich fruit favours. £14.50, The Wine Society. 

Hidden gems of France

Rose Murray Brown MW
***STAR BUY***
Domaine Jones Grenache Noir 2015 
(£12.50 The Wine Society 
‘Made by Englishwoman Katie Jones from 90-year-old vines grown on rugged schist soils in Maury on the edge of the Garrigue.  An astonishing vivid unoaked rendition of this peppery grape with lovely succulent ripe fruits, a wonderful wine to enjoy right now with a platter of charcuterie – not for the long haul: 14.5%’

An English Contribution to Southern France

Brian Elliot

'Leicestershire's Katie Jones is something of a legend creating fantastic and distinctive wine in a little-known corner of Languedoc - often having to overcome ultra-conservative local opposition to survive.

However, it all seems worth it when you encounter the inky depth of 2015 Domaine Jones Côtes Catalanes Grenache Noir (£12.50 at The Wine Society and 14.5%) and the elderberry and bramble fruit it embodies which leads into graphic centred minerality, hints of cocoa and vanilla all enlivened by an almost grapefruit based acidity.'


In Tuchan we are lucky to have wild asparagus that grows in the hedgerows surrounding our vines.

You need eagle eyes to seek out the thin, camouflaged shoots but you need to search even harder to find a wine to go with them.

But look no further - Domaine Jones Grenache Gris with its subtle hints of fennel and wild herbs is the perfect wine to accompany asparagus.

At this time of year, our local reserve is exhausted but the amazing organic market in Place de la République in Perpignan has bundles of delicious green asparagus.  My favourite dish is so simple - just heat the oven to 200°C, place the asparagus in an ovenproof tray, drizzle olive oil all over and sprinkle with salt.  Place a couple of thick strips of Serrano ham on the asparagus and cook for about 20 minutes or until the asparagus is tender.

Et voilà!