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 midweekwine.co.uk  - 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 www.thewinesociety.com) 
‘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.'



Asparagus

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!


Visit to Domaine Jones

We always love to have visitors at Domaine Jones, especially as we are a little off the beaten track!

As we are not 'just down the road', it is always best to check that we are going to be in before you start out!

Either give me a ring on 0033 686679468 or send me a quick email katie@domainejones.com.

The address to head for is:

La Gare du Vin
1 rue de la Glacière
11350 Tuchan

which is just off Rue de la Gare opposite the bank.

Or search for Domaine Jones on Google maps

We will be pleased to show you around our converted train shed winery and taste a selection of Domaine Jones wines.

Our first visitors of the year were lucky enough to catch Jean-Marc out in the vineyard planting some Grenache Gris vines.


Grenache - but not as we know it!


At Domaine Jones, we’re not afraid to do things differently and we don’t mind standing out from the crowd.  We do not follow trends, we start them, and I know we have raised an eyebrow or two in the village by turning something of an underdog grape into a Crufts champion!

You may remember that a couple of years ago I bought a vineyard planted with Lledoner Pelut - aka Hairy Grenache - so called because of the soft down on its leaves.  In 2015 we tried making the wine - you can read about it here:

A short back and sides for the hairy grenache
A history of the Lledoner Pelut in Tuchan

but after the harvest, I went rather quiet as we were disappointed with the results.  Last year we thought we'd have another go but we did it differently.

We have also let our imagination run wild and created a unique label with a quirky cartoon style that wraps around the bottle and really does tell a story.

So, what does it taste like then? Well, as you might imagine, it is close in style and flavour profile to its more mainstream cousin, but in general makes for a paler coloured red wine, but still with plenty of fruit and a lighter structure. Some say as it ages (we are yet to see)  there is a hint of Burgundian Pinot Noir about it. 

There is not much Lledoner Pelut around at all and my 1000 bottles were snapped up as quickly as you can say Hairy Grenache.  I do have a couple of cases put to one side for members of the Domaine Jones Wine Club and visitors to the Domaine.  But I'm getting back out into that vineyard to start combing those leaves for next years vintage.








Thursday, March 1, 2018

Moscow Paris

As I opened the shutters this morning there is no sign of the Beast from the East in the village of Tuchan.  Its 8° and damp, no snow, no frost, no ice - almost spring like.

In France the cold snap is called the Moscow Paris, not nearly as catchy as the Beast from the East, but even the Moscow Paris didn't go via Tuchan.

We did have a flurry of snow yesterday and had it continued for more than 2 minutes we may have been snowed in but by 10 am it had all melted.



I am not complaining at all even if I feel we are missing out on all the action.  But for the vines a little bit of snow is not a bad thing at this time of year and at least it stops them from springing into action too early and then being damaged by a late frost like last year.

A sleeping vine not quite ready to spring into action
The almond blossom is out here and it is so beautiful so I am sending a little bit of southern warmth with the thoughts of warmer days that are just around the corner.  I am sorry for the blue skies but the blossom does look a bit like snow flakes.



My definite wine recommendation to beat the Beast would be a delicious bottle of Domaine Jones Fitou (any vintage from 2010 onwards)  if possible drunk in front of an open fire with a wholesome stew.