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Katie Jones comes from Leicestershire but makes wine in the Languedoc-Roussillon in the deep south of France. This particular grape variety was supposed to be grenache but it turns out it's a rare, rot-resistant variant called lledoner pelut, named for its hairy leaves! There's nothing hairy about the wine, though - indeed, it's an outrageously delicious, succulent barbecue-friendly red. Snap it up while you can.
Product Code: FC36911
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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 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.
Where do we start in a region so huge? With production nearly three times that of Bordeaux, or more than the whole of Australia, the Languedoc-Roussillon accounts for about a third of all French wine made. The sheer scale of production and the intense competition to channel such volumes through to the market means that in most years supply is greater than demand so prices are kept in check. It is not for nothing that wines from the South of France offer such great value for money. Here you get what you pay for. The trick is to get beyond the gain line and tap into a rich vein of almost endless vinous pleasure. Appellation Contrôlée and Vin de Pays (also known as IGP – Indication Geographique Protegée) - officially, these are two quite different wine worlds that live side by side almost, seemingly, in complete ignorance of each other's existence. Luckily, reality is different and most producers see no conflict between the two and many produce wines under both codes. Nor is one necessarily better than the other. Indeed many of Languedoc's most iconic wines, such as Mas de Daumas Gassac and Grange des Pères, are Vin de Pays. So why the difference? The status of Appellation Contrôlée was gradually conferred to the historic heartlands of Languedoc-Roussillon, in other words those sites in the foothills of the Massif Central and Pyrenees where viticulture has existed since the Romans. Appellation status is also about taste and about wine made from a narrow selection of mostly Mediterranean grape varieties.Vin de Pays (IGP) was introduced to improve the quality of what was then the mass of 'vins ordinaries'. It confers an identity to wines coming from those areas that were planted during the big periods of expansion, mostly in the plain between Narbonne and Pézenas. It allows for higher yields than AC, and, more importantly, allows a much wider palette of grape varieties for the growers to choose from.In terms of grape varieties Languedoc-Roussillon is France's answer to the New World. In the duality of Appellation Contrôlée and Vin de Pays, the conformism of Parisian bureaucracy goes hand in hand with the creative spirit of pure liberalism. So in terms of grape variety, almost anything goes! Native Languedoc and Roussillon varieties are at the heart of all appellation wines. With a changing climate and a tendency to extremes of weather, these ancient varieties are gaining favour.Carignan is the workhorse of Languedoc especially in the drier west. At its best, it produces a wine that is deeply coloured, quite tannic, sappy with brambly fruit. Many producers have woken up to the qualities of carignan if it is treated with respect and low yields are achieved.Grenache produces round tasting wines, often with low tannin and high alcohol and is rarely to be found on its own except in the fortified reds of Roussillon.Cinsault belongs in the heat of North Africa. In the South of France, it is widely grown and can add fragrance and lightness of touch to big brawny reds, but more often it is made into rosé.Like carignan, the native whites are more obviously associated with high production but with careful handling can produce wines of real interest. There is maccabeu and grenache blanc, grown mostly in Corbières and Roussillon. Clairette, grown mostly in the east, closer to the Rhône. Terret is grown extensively around Marsseillan, home of French vermouth. Maybe the best of all is the piquepoul which east of Beziers produces good quaffing dry picpoul de Pinet. Muscat used to be grown exclusively for vin doux naturel such as Saint Jean de Minervois and Rivesaltes but also produces full-flavoured dry wines of some interest.The biggest change in the South of France was the introduction of other grape varieties to help boost quality. For the reds, syrah was the most obvious import and is now widely planted and is usually part of a blend with grenache and/or carignan. Syrah is at its best where there is a little humidity such as in the east around Pic Saint Loup. Mourvèdre is much more complicated to grow but has a real future in areas close to the sea such as in parts of Fitou and Corbières.For the whites, roussanne and marsanne have also journeyed south from the Rhône to add finesse and flavour to Mediterranean blends. Increasingly, the Corsican vermentino, also known as rolle, can be found in blends where it often has a positive influence.Bordeaux has for long been an important connection for the Languedoc with the Canal du Midi there to prove the link. Not surprisingly, Languedoc producers were quick to introduce Bordeaux varieties in their vineyards. Merlot is the most widely planted and in some years has been very profitably exported in bulk to California or back to Bordeaux. The later ripening cabernets are probably better suited to the climate of the south and have great potential.Another revolution across the South of France has been in the quality of the whites. Before new standards of cellar hygiene and refrigeration were introduced, the concept of a fresh, dry and fruity Languedoc-Roussillon white wine was nigh impossible. Growers like Pierre Bésinet at Domaine du Bosc and Louis-Marie Teisserenc at Domaine de l'Arjolle were quick to spot the potential and successfully plant chardonnay, sauvignon and even the mysterious viognier.Regional StylesLanguedoc-Roussillon is such a large region that it is impossible to generalise about the entirety. It helps to divide it into three main sections: Eastern Languedoc, Western Languedoc, and Southern Lanuedoc. The east includes excellent appellations like Faugères, Côteaux du Languedoc, Pic saint Loup and Montpeyroux. The style of wine produced here is often Rhône-like: generous, thickly textured and often high in alcohol. Syrah is the outstanding grape variety and it blends well with grenache and sometimes mourvèdre. Nothing remains static in Languedoc and the old Côteaux du Languedoc is about to be replaced by a new appellation called simply Languedoc. Western Languedoc is more dramatic, mountainous, and much drier than the east, but it's also colder and the austerity of its climate and topography can be tasted in its wines. The carignan grape is often an essential element in many of the reds. Look out for saint-Chinian, Minervois and Saint Jean de Minervois (the latter for muscat based sweet vin doux naturel), Cabardès, Limoux (especially sparkling Crémant de Limoux).The south incorporates Corbières, Fitou and Roussillon. These are dry, hot regions surrounded by mountains which provide a majestic backdrop. Fitou is the oldest Appellation and confusingly comes in two parts. The best wines though come from in between in what is actually southern Corbières. Corbières is the largest single appellation in Languedoc, with myriad different styles from different soils and microclimates. This veritable chaos of crags, gorges, strewn with castles, wild herbs and abandoned abbeys encapsulates the heart of the Midi. The wines all have a little of that wildness and wonder.In Roussillon black schists on the north bank of the Agly make the best reds. These are typically fine and spicy with grenache and syrah. Traditionally the best-exposed sights near the village of Maury have produced sweet fortified wine. High mountains provide the opportunity to plant vines at higher altitudes and make fresher wines. Finally, this vast region ends in a narrow strip of land between mountain and the sea and with Spain on two sides. Twisting lanes and vertiginous vine terraces link the little ports of Collioure, Banyuls and Cerbère. The fortified wines are sold as Banyuls and are mostly Grenache-based with a little carignan. The Collioure appellation is for expressive, full-bodied and refined table wine which can be made from several grape varieties: carignan, syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and counoise for the reds and grenache, roussanne and vermentino for the whites.
"Colour: Deep ruby with a pink rim.
Aroma: Intense, rich and ripe, red and black fruits (blackberries, cherry and stewed strawberries) but also a savoury/umami tone including iodine, chocolate, cedar, new leather, a herbal note and warming spices.
Taste: Full-bodied, robust and sumptuous, solid chewy tannin, lively acidity. Mouth-filling flavours that reflect the nose (fruity cough medicine).
Overall: Reminded me of a big Aussie Shiraz, so rich and unctous. Not a complex wine but delicious and easy-drinking nonetheless. The tannin, acid and fruit are quite well balanced so all-in-all a good buy, recommend."
I would recommend this wine
joannasimon.com 4th Oct 2019
[Katie Jones] is an inspired, sensitive and
meticulous winemaker specialising in wines made from plots of old vines
around Tuchan in Languedoc-Roussillon. This wine is from a parcel of 70–80
year old vines and is, in a word, delicious. In a few more words, it's juicy,
sumptuous and seamless, with black cherry, elderberry and damson fruit and a
refreshing twist of sloe on the finish. Lledoner Pelut is the name of the
grape variety, but so is Hairy Grenache – unofficially – because the leaves
of this Grenache variant are hairy/downy underneath. It's dangerously easy to
drink (just a friendly warning) and would go down a treat with warming
casseroles (meat or vegetarian), cassoulet, roast pork, herby, spicy
sausages, meaty pasta dishes and a whole lot more. If you don't like the comic
strip wine label, ignore it, but don't ignore the wine. - Joanna Simon
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