Friday, October 13, 2017

Harvest 2017 in the vat

As we put the lid on the vat of the ninth Jones harvest I am happy to say that is has probably been one of the finest quality, one of the earliest and definitely one of the hairiest harvests since we started in 2009.
You may remember my small plot of hairy grenache (Lledoner Pelut) which I am rather fond of – not just because of the name which sounds vaguely welsh but because I have always thought that this vineyard has great potential to make a fine wine.  And great potential to use a couple of wigs!

There isn’t much going for the hairy grenache (so called because it has fine hairs on the back of the leaves).  It is despised locally for the inferior quality of the wine, its lower alcohol and has even been downgraded to ‘generic’ status at the local cooperative.  I’m always up for a challenge  and in the 2017 vintage I set out to show that Lledoner Pelut  can make a seriously fine wine.

I only have a small vineyard of 60 year old Lledoner with about 2000 vines.  My first attempt back in the 2015 harvest went a bit bottoms up and I ended up blending it back in to my Fitou.  It was a lovely, perfumed wine but with a lighter aromatic body which made the tannins unbalanced.  So this year I decided to do things differently.  Instead of treating it like the other Mediterranean varieties we decided to treat it like a lighter variety the pinot noir.  Instead of trying to get maximum extract out of the skins we pressed after only 4 days to prioritise the fresh fruit flavours and subtle tannins.  It’s looking very good so far. So much so that I’m even a little upset that I only have the potential to make 900 bottles.
On the subject of small volumes I’m rather disappointed by the meagre harvest of my Carignan Gris.  It’s never been one of my biggest producers - in 2016 I managed to squeeze 600 bottles from my  60 year old vines but unfortunately no matter how much I pressed this year it is going to be a very very small production.  I thought all of my vines had escaped the late April frosts we had this year but this low lying vineyard must have had just a touch of frost - enough to prevent all the grapes developing properly. 

But I’m really pleased to say that  all the other grape varieties Carignan, Grenache and Syrah on the red side and Grenache Gris, Grenache blanc, Macabeu and Muscat on the white side performed well this year and my old vines have done my proud once again.  The 2017 will be one to look out for.

Highlights of the harvest included a cassoulet made by a Dutch chef and served in our vineyard , trips in my old faithful Dyane who was driven in to a ditch by a German, washing 100 picking baskets in the sunshine and watching others wash over 1000,  discovering that gin and fermenting grape juice is a great drink and having an amazing team once again to safely ensure the grapes are picked, put into vat  and looked after with the total and utmost respect they deserve.

Thanks very much Steve and Pauline, Cara and the pickers, all of you who made it to Tuchan to see us and of course Monsieur Jones for making this one of the most enjoyable harvests yet.

 A très bientôt


Friday, August 25, 2017

Harvest 2017

We started the 2017 harvest on the 22nd August which is the earliest we have ever picked a bunch of grapes here at Domaine Jones!  We began with the grenache gris and grenache blanc from our old vines in Tuchan before moving on to the macabeu in Paziols.  

After spending a night chilling in the big fridge the grapes bounce along the sorting table and into the press.  After a good squeeze the juice is pumped into the vat and we all wait nervously to see if the magic of fermentation is going to start.  It always does but it always feels like it never will.

Everything has gone amazingly well so far - but it's only day 4!

Grenache being sorted by a lady in a nice t shirt

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wales - nothing to do with wine

Jelly beach art

For a change here are some pictures from our holiday in Pembrokeshire.  A week of wet pallid weather that did us the world of good and almost made us forget that there is a harvest that needs bringing in.

Sun Lover - welsh humour

Saundersfoot beach

Wiseman's Bridge

JM with his feet in the sea

Friday, August 11, 2017

Haute Sécurité

This year we have put up over 1 mile of fencing around our more sensitive vines to try and keep our old ‘friend’ the wild boar out of our precious vineyards.  It’s never quite as easy as saying ‘I’m just going to put up a fence’ as firstly we had to get the digger out to clear away the undergrowth and then 'we' knocked in over 400 metal posts in perhaps one of the stoniest soils in France. 
The priority was to protect the vineyards on the edge of the garrigue (prime wild boar territory) such as La Caune or Falandrin with its natural spring that becomes a regular watering hole in the summer.
All the vineyards we protected were either syrah which ripen early, or the deliciously aromatic muscat with the exception of St Roch which is planted with 100 year old carignan and grenache and normally of less interest to the greedy wild pigs.  But as it is one the last vineyards to be harvested in the village, when everything else has been picked our little vineyard at St Roch becomes surprisingly tasty.

This year the wild boar seem to be hungrier than ever and have already started nibbling at unripe grapes in our unprotected vineyards.  They were so desperate to get into the Falandrin vineyard that they ram raided the fence.

Monday, August 7, 2017

2017 Harvest countdown

the 2017 harvest
I had a slight panic attack when I saw on the local news that the harvest has already started down on the plains near Perpignan, 2 weeks ahead of schedule.  We have just checked the vines and although Perpignan is only 40 km away our grapes are still a good couple of weeks off.   During the past two weeks the weather has not been quite so hot and we have had afternoon storms and clouds blown in from the sea.  This has slowed the grapes down slightly and so it looks like we will probably be harvesting perhaps a week early so towards the end of August.  

The grapes are looking really, really good which means we can leave them to ripen without the pressure of having to pick due to the risk of rot.

So as long as those pesky wild boars stop stampeding our vineyards it looks like we're in for a great harvest.

Friday, August 4, 2017

For the love of old vines

Domaine Jones is made up of 20 small vineyards scattered across the arid countryside around the remote village of Tuchan.  The vines are exclusively old vines and old means old in Domaine Jones language.  From 40 years up to over 100 years.  I have been collecting vineyards since we started the Domaine in 2009 with just one.  I now have a fine collection of some of the oldest vineyards in the village - Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Muscat and Macabeu – all old, all magnificently located and all extremely hard work.

Even on our old vines we want to keep the yields down so that all the grapes can ripen evenly and healthily.  We thin out the shoots and take off unwanted leaves at the bottom of the vines by hand during the spring.

For the syrah on trellisis we make sure that the rows stay neat and tidy by tucking the branches behind the wires two or three times during the growing season.  And when the branches are too high to stay within the wires we chop them off with hand held sheers.  We also plough with our trusty steed - the 50 year old chenillard tractor.


If I just had one little vineyard all this could be quite fun but as a collector of vineyards I now have over 50 000 vines that need individual care and attention. Not the walk in the park (or in the vineyard)  I had envisaged!
So is all this hard work worth it?  And is it reflected in the quality of the wine?
Given all the rave reviews our wines get I think we must be doing something right.  Our attention to detail and our knowledge of each individual vineyard means that our wine making starts in the vineyard 9 months before we even pick the first grape.

Happy vines make happy wines!