I’ve known Katie Jones for as long as I’ve known the Languedoc, which is to say, quite a long time. On my first visit to Fitou, she entertained me to a warming casserole in her tiny house in the pretty little hillside village of Paziols. At that time she was about the only Anglaise there and now you can hardy walk down the narrow village streets without the radio blaring out The Archers.
Katie was working in marketing for the Tuchan Co-operative, a short cycle ride across the flat vine-clad valley floor. She did much to bring Tuchan in particular and Fitou in general to a wider audience. She married a co-operative member, and although it flopped, she wasn’t one to traipse back to home to Ashby-de-la-Zouch with her tail between her legs. The village was highly supportive and she bought a beautiful house on the hill which she lovingly renovated.
Struck by the potential of the region’s old vines, she decided 10 years ago that enough marketing was enough and she would buy a parcel of vines with a hut on it so that she could sit, read, eat, drink and contemplate life. She found a spot in the Maury Valley’s with ‘black’ schist beneath the impressive ruined Cathar castle of Quéribus straddling the Languedoc and Roussillon.
After shaking on the deal with M.Baurrel for a hectare or two of Grenache, she split the property with a local producer, only to discover that her side not only had no hut, but that the Grenache was mostly Grenache Gris. At first downcast, Katie soon realised the potential for Grenache Gris, which turned out to have the required freshness and minerality delicious and the other producer let her sit in his hut if she wanted.
Today that Grenache forms the basis of the Domaine Jones Grenache Gris, which is one of her best and most distinctive dry whites. The latest release, the 2015 Domaine Jones Grenache Gris, is fresh and juicy with beeswax and almondy undertones and an appetisingly dry finish.
Katie continued to snap up small parcels of vines in and now owns an impressive 12 hectares of vineyards in Maury, Paziols and Tuchan, all of which are vinified separately. Whereas making a living from their small plots of vineyard is a tough ask for most of the co-operative members in this scenic Mediterranean arrière-pays, Katie’s labour intensive approach in producing low yields and high quality has paid handsome dividends.
The approach is enhanced by enhanced by skilful winemaking in an old train shed, now La Gare du Vin, once used for the Tuchan Express steam train. Unfortunately there were setbacks when jealous locals failed to appreciate that she was making quality wine and selling at prices that they could only dream of. While at the Prowein trade fair in Germany in 2013, a handful of tiny-minded vandals opened the taps on her entire white wine production. Needless to say, Katie was undaunted.
The week before last, I found myself standing behind a table showing Katie’s wines to consumers who’d come to The Wine Gang’s Sud de France Top 100. I had been one of the judging panel and her wines had done very well. On my table, I was showing the 2015 Domaine Jones Fitou, and while still full of youthful vigour, tannic muscle and primary fruit, it was succulent enough to find favour with everyone who visited my table.
Jane was showing the 2015 Domaine Jones Rouge Grenache Noir on her table and that’s always been one of my favourite reds, supple and juicy with primary cherry and cranberry-like fruit and so bright and vibrant.
Last week, Katie herself came to London to show off her latest range at the Maison du Sud. In addition to the wines mentioned, I loved the honeyed, floral and herby 2014 Les Perles de Jones Macabeu with its ripe, apricot fruit and the 2015 Perles de Jones Carignan Gris, barrel-fermented for a concentrated richness of buttery, peachy fruit and a smoky edge to it. In half-litre bottle, the Blanc du barrique Grenache Gris is a distinctive, oxidative dry white with a whiff of fresh fino sherry and deliciously pure, honeyed richness of texture.
There was a vertical of the Fitou back to 2010, showing its potential for ageing, and the other two reds that struck me were the brambly, blackberryish 2013 Les Perles de Jones Carignan Rouge and the 2014 Les Perles de Jones Syrah rare, a cut about the 2014 Syrah with polished oak, black peppery fruit and firm backbone of fresh acidity and succulent tannins. Hopefully, I’ll be keeping up with Domaine Jones at our Manchester event Friday 27 - Saturday 28 October with HangingDitch and on the Wine Sensations table at our London Festival on Saturday 4 November and so too, will our consumers.
If you haven’t already booked, we suggest that you so right away at https://thewinegang.com/events/hanging-ditch-winefair-ten and https://thewinegang.com/events/winter-festival-london-2017. Wine Sensations carries the full range of Domaine Jones wines, Naked Wines and The Wine Society an extensive selection, while HangingDitch and Majestic are also stockists. For more info on Katie, please check out her website: http://domainejones.com/shop.
Updated 13 October 2017.
Pics by Anthony and Domaine Jones.