Tue 09 Apr 2013

A sad tale of malice and envy in the Languedoc

By

Marcel Orford-Williams reports on a tragic case of Midi sabotage

The spirit of Jean de Florette, Pagnol’s story of jealousy and conspiracy against the outsider in rural France, seems to live on in the Languedoc-Roussillon.

The victim is a Wine Society supplier called Katie Jones. Despite originally coming from Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, Katie could hardly be called an outsider having worked for years as export director for the influential Mont Tauch co-operative in Tuchan, one of the villages that make up the Fitou Appellation. And she even married a local.

Katie Jones takes a hands on approach in the vineyard

Katie’s ambition was to make and sell her own wine and bought a few choice parcels of vineyard, some in Tuchan itself but some a little distance away and over a hill or two in Maury. This meant that she had vines in neighbouring Departements, something which was by itself already complicated. From a purely administrative point of view, she should have had two cellars, one in Tuchan for her reds and one in Maury. To make things worse, her first efforts were immediately noticed, especially the white grenache gris from old vines on the slopes above Maury. Her wines began to sell easily at a time when many of her colleagues, less troubled by the exigencies of customer demands, were finding it increasingly hard to sell their bland wines.

And then Katie began to win medals. Both the International Wine Challenge and Decanter heaped praise on her wines and I remember being at the Decanter dinner last year when she received her award. I visited her tiny cellar in the rue du Vatican in January and tasted the range. The 2012 grenache gris was gorgeous and we duly put our marker on a few cases. We even carried a profile of Katie in March’s edition of SocietyNews.

Imagine my disappointment and anger when I received news last week from Katie that she had ‘lost’ two vats of Domaine Jones Blanc 2012.

Foul play is suspected.

So, no 2012 grenache blanc from Domaine Jones and her growing list of fans, myself included, will have to wait another year for the 2013. There is a little 2011 left which is at its best now. The reds (we stock her grenache and her Fitou) luckily were spared so that is some consolation and of course no one was harmed. But for Katie there is still the feeling of bitterness and sadness and then there is also the knowledge that within her community, there is such malice and envy.

Growing grapevines isn’t easy at the best of times and harder still in a place such as Tuchan with its extremes of climate and terrain. But it would take a lot more than this to prevent Katie from doing what she loves best. We wish her well for the 2013 vintage!

Categories : France, Miscellaneous

Comments

  1. This is shocking. We are Languedoc residents proud of the local wine traditions and equally of the diverse cultures and nationalities that have helped to build them up. It is exciting to find English winemakers among the successes of the area, and terrible to think that locals don’t value the trade and kudos successful winemakers bring to their communes. Just for the record, and for those villagers who cannot see beyond the end of their own back yard, it is worth recalling that even many of the successful étrangers (men and women) who make wine here are from other parts of France – the mixing of cultures and traditions in local communities parallels the successful blending and maturing of grapes to make a successful wine.

  2. Ian Black says:

    Very unhappy news. I do hope Katie can recover her business to overcome this unpleasantness.

    I thought I would add a note, as this part of the winemaking world is rather unhappy at present. The go-ahead local Cave Coop (Mont Tauch) has just been put into administration, and Jean Marc Astruc – the former president and I believe Katie’s other half – is reported in the press as having had half his vineyard area destroyed. A similar thing has happened to the former vice president.

    But these are local business issues, not anything to do with nationality. If you were hoping to visit this part of France, please don’t feel put off.

  3. Paul says:

    There is more to this story than is published here. Local British Resident.

  4. John McLusky says:

    Shameful, yet so typical of the most ignorant in La France Profonde

  5. We have edited this post since we first published it this morning at Katie’s request as this matter is now in the hands of the local police.
    More news as we get it…

  6. John McCarroll says:

    This is a very sad piece of news. One hopes that the offenders are caught. There are many fans of her wines and she has our support in overcoming this setback.

  7. DAVID PULLEN says:

    I have just bought french for the first time in30 years-this story reminds me why-Ishall revert to spain!

  8. Sharon says:

    So. Nothing to do with her being English, then.

  9. Anthony says:

    So sorry to hear of Katie and Marc’s plight. This type of behaviour can happen anywhere, given a certain sort of mindset, and I certainly won’t let that stop me enjoying French wine!

  10. Vin Yorke says:

    What a great pity, no more of a delicious white. Many friends mocked at the idea of Domaine Jones, but I was delighted with it. Looking forward to next year.

  11. Jon S says:

    A timely reminder that rural France isn’t always a perfect paradise – as some would have it – However it won’t stop me buying French wine!

  12. Robert Sunderland says:

    ‘Clochemerle’ and ‘Chocolat’ also come to mind.
    Sabotage is after all a French word. (Putting a shoe in the works…….)
    I wish the lady well for the future. Her experience will not put me off wines from the Lange d’Oc.

  13. Peter Parry says:

    What a sad story. I love Katie’s Fitou and will be buying more soon. katie don’t let the b******s grind you down.

  14. Peter says:

    Just read this very sad news I’m ashamed to say. We have a property in the Languedoc and buy a lot of their wine both locally and from the WS. We were in Fitou in May as it happens. I shall pass this news on to French friends.
    There is always hostility to newcomers: just look at the media frenzy in the UK over immigrants ‘pouring in’ to Britain. It sells papers …

  15. Peter Butler says:

    They say that all publicity is good. Even this sad case.
    I will be looking our for your wine Katie in the future, and will buy some.

  16. Fred M says:

    This is very sad. We lived in the Languedoc for 6 years (2 years in the Pic St Loup area and 4 in Montpellier) and unfortunately wine sabotage, whilst not exactly commonplace, is becoming more frequent. We know of one vigneron who lost many vines to a night attack with chain saws. There have also been incidents of arson and emptying of vats in Cabardès and La Clape. These may be the result of local disputes and rivalries but may also be down to the activities CRAV (Comité régional d’action viticole), a group that has been responsible for many attacks in the L-R.

  17. Mick Stiffin says:

    This is terribly sad. I am going back to French wine after a 20 year spin round the new world with Fitou being rediscovered along with minervois. Will look out for Dom Jones. Good luck Katie.

  18. Paddy Carpenter says:

    Yes I agree this is sad and I wish the lady better luck with her neighbours in the future. What is equally sad however is the obliquely stated generalisations about the French contained in some of the comments above. I have lived in France for many years and have raised a family in la France profonde and have never once, except in jest, encountered the anti-outsider attitudes described in some of these comments. I have been burgled twice, tail-gated and overtaken at high speed every time I have taken the car out, and accused of ditching the French at Dunkirk whenever I have talked about the war with my French friends but I would not want to live anywhere else in the world. And I will now look out for some of Katie’s wine.

  19. Graham Hackett says:

    A note of optimism here. An company called Naked Wines that uses their customers’ cash to fund selected winemakers has given Katie a substantial sum to enable her to recover from the criminal act. Their customers get first dibs of course.

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