Domaine Jones has only been in existence since 2008 and despite its tiny output (fewer than 16,000 bottles) and the fact that its owner Katie had never made wine before, it has already won international acclaim. Wine Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams has followed her career from the beginning, and says that Katie 'is a one-off.'
Originally from Ashby de la Zouch, Katie moved to the tiny village of Paziols (population c500) 20 years ago, 'beguiled' by the beauty of the scenery, the charm of the villages and the warmth of the people. She took up a position with the local Mont Tauch Co-op, one of the more dynamic in the region, and stayed for 16 years before buying her first 2.5-hectare vineyard in 2008, in Maury, intending to use it for gardening and, like almost everyone else in the village, to sell the grapes to the co-op. It was well-priced and planted with gnarled old vines that yielded too low to be of interest to most growers intending to sell grapes.
She thought she was getting a vineyard of grenache noir but found, when the vines flowered the following spring, that she had also acquired grenache gris, muscat and carignan. This is land is tough, remote and at altitude amid crags and just beneath the Cathar fortress of Queribus, surrounded by wild garrigue and consisting of black schist that is notoriously hard to cultivate.
So having taken the plunge and given up her job she set out to make wine. She acquired a 200-year-old stone building which she christened 'The Vatican' (it's on the rue du Vatican), and bought the equipment she needed with the advice of a friend, Australian winemaker/consultant David Morrison, to guide her. She had to purchase tiny vats so that she could fit them in to 'the Vatican' and vinify all the varieties separately.
Success was unexpectedly immediate. Though she had imagined that she would have to establish herself and her wine style over a couple of vintages her first red, the 2009, won several accolades including an International Wine Challenge (IWC) silver medal. Her whites were also much awarded and The Society's Marcel Orford-Williams snapped it up for the first time.
Her success encouraged her to pursue another dream and buy a vineyard in Fitou, once again on difficult land to farm, which meant she got a very good price, which brought more grenache and carignan plus some syrah into her portfolio of varieties.
She followed up her award-winning 2009 non-appellation wine when the 2010 from the new vineyard won the Fitou Trophy at the IWC. Since then she has acquired more Fitou vines and moved to bigger premises, an old rail-engine shed in Tuchan.
However, it has not all been plain sailing for her. In 2013 spiteful vandals broke in to her winery and opened the taps on the vats of her white wines, draining away her unbottled 2012 vintage, while wild boars stripped her vines of ripe muscat grapes one autumn. Nonetheless, Katie has overcome all the difficulties to make wonderful wines in a wonderful landscape, and though she won't rest on her laurels she can sit in her vineyards with husband Jean Marc, take in the beauty and be proud of what she has achieved.