The London Wine Trade Fair, which took place last week – three intensive days at the large exhibition centre of Excel – is not normally the place for finding new wines. It’s usually more a question of catching up with old friends, and revisiting familiar producers, but you never know. There is also an element of chance about who you happen to meet – and in the sandwich queue I bumped into Katie Jones. We last saw each other a couple of years ago, when I visited her at Mont Tauch, one of the Midi’s leading cooperatives, with a dynamic range of Fitou and Corbieres. Until the middle of last year, Katie was their sales and marketing director, and about three years ago she bought a plot of vines. Since then she has taken the plunge, given up the day job and made her first wines. She was ‘camping’ in a small corner of the Mont Tauch stand, with a couple of bottles to taste.
Katie is a natural enthusiast and she was positively bubbling about her new project. Her vineyard – just three hectares of sixty year old vines – in the village of Maury in the Agly valley, lies below the dramatic ruined Cathar castle of Quéribus. I’ve not seen the vineyard, but I know the village and can envisage the spot. It is in a wonderful situation. She has Muscat, Grenache Gris, Grenache Noir and Carignan, and last week the Grenache Gris and Muscat available for tasting.
2009 Grenache Gris. Vin de France - £15.00
Katie is not going to fuss about French bureaucracy and submit bottles and paperwork for a vin de pays label, or indication géographique protégée, as it should be called now.. She has opted for simplicity and vin de table. Half of her Grenache has spent six months in oak, but it is so beautifully integrated that you simply wouldn’t realise. There is some attractive spicy fruit on the nose and palate, with hints of white flowers and a fresh finish and lovely mouth feel. I was dead impressed. Here is somebody who until last year had never actually made wine – true she has worked in wine for years, but that’s quite different from making it. She does have access to some expert advice, but she has still got to implement it.
Then we tried the 2009 Muscat - £10.00 for 37.5 cl. bottle
Instead of the traditional, and sometimes rather heavy, Vin Doux Naturel, Katie has aimed for something lighter and more delicate. This has 13º alcohol with 60 gms/l of residual sugar. The nose has the characteristic grapey notes of Muscat, with a slightly bitter hint, and the palate is lovely and ripe, quite sweet, moelleux, and elegant rather than luscious. In France, where they favour sweeter aperitifs, you might drink this before a meal. I would like it with a light fruity dessert, or quite simply instead of dessert.
Katie’s red wine is not ready for drinking yet. It is still doing its malo, and she is planning on releasing it in July or August. Meanwhile she has one particularly good barrel of Carignan which she might bottle separately. The quantities are tiny; this is the ultimate garagiste wine. And it all promises deliciously for the future. I can’t wait to taste the red.