Domaine Jones "On the QT" Bin 25: Carignan Gris 2019
Made by Katie Jones in Tuchan, France
The full name of this rare white includes four words that perfectly sum up its location, its makers and its spirit: off the beaten track.
"When we first got this vineyard, I was like, why do we want this? It's on a stony riverbed, it's flat...,” explains Katie, who together with husband, Jean Marc, creates magic out of 60/70-year-old vines. “But this is one of those cases where the grape variety was more important than the location. Carignan Gris is very obscure. And we really like obscure, weird grapes at Domaine Jones."
La Roque is a little, organic vineyard near Tuchan, on the Languedoc-Roussillon border, about an hour's drive in a blue Citroën Dyane south of Narbonne. It’s a special place to Katie for many reasons, but also because this tiny parcel that measures one third of a hectare contains some of the rarest vines in the world. Only 1.4 hectares of Carignan Gris officially exist – in nearby Perpignan.
One of the reasons for the grape’s obscurity is because it wasn’t listed as an official variety until 2017. It’s no doubt been used in white blends, but probably as a way of using it up, rather than purposefully. And the reason for this, says Katie, is because “Carignan Gris is perhaps the most awkward grape variety to grow. It’s a real pain in the derrière, however beautiful it looks. And it takes forever to ripen." This means Katie and her team hand-pick the parcel twice. The Gris turns a lovely pale pink colour when it's ready to harvest in mid-October – a full month after the Noir (and six weeks after the other whites have been picked!).
It’s worth the wait. This 100% Carignan Gris is in a category all on its own. It’s a bright, straw colour with an earthy character that’s perfect for mushroom risotto, oven-baked asparagus, creamy Camembert or moules marinière (but serve it at room temperature, as it’s a little shy when chilled). It’s not particularly fruity, it is quite herbaceous, there’s lots of minerality and lovely freshness – and it’s this pure taste of a rare grape that drove Katie to making the 695 bottles of 2019. "Most people would run a mile from Carignan Gris, but we absolutely embraced it.”