Friday, January 18, 2013

Vineyard Tales - Domaine Treloar

We conducted wine tours for over 2 years in the Roussillon region and the one thing that struck us was that everyone was really very interested in the stories and the people behind the vineyards as well as the actual wine tasting aspect.
So once a month, I hope to bring you the story behind a vineyard in the Roussillon, because every vineyard has a story to tell..
Jon Hesford of Domaine Treloar
Domaine Treloar is a small family run vineyard of 12 hectares situated in the Aspres region in the Roussillon. They have been making their highly acclaimed wine here since 2006.
I chatted to them recently:
Where are you from originally?
Jon is from Yorkshire. Shortly after university he moved to London and started a career as a computer programmer. It was in 1998, working at an investment bank, where I met Rachel, from Levin, near Wellington in New Zealand. We met over lunch and a nice bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon blanc in the Barbican Centre. We had both just come out of unhappy relationships and found what we’d been missing. We got married 6 months later, just before moving to New York to work.
What made you decide to become a wine maker?
The love of wine and Osama bin Laden. Our story is a bit different. We never dreamt of owning a vineyard. We probably would never have done it without the catalyst of Sept 11th. Living and working within 500m of the Twin Towers, seeing both planes hit the building, losing colleagues and having our lives turned upside down destroyed our illusion of safety and career security. We wanted to be in control of our own destiny. It also made us realize that if there is something you would rather be doing, you should go and do it straight away.
When did you start making wine?
2002. I volunteered at a English winery for a few months and then decided to go to New Zealand to study oenology and viticulture at Lincoln University, near Christchurch. The plan was to do a vintage after the course and return to Europe but I was offered the job of assistant winemaker at Neudorf Vineyard in Nelson and stayed there nearly 2 years. It was a great experience, making some of the finest wines in the Southern Hemisphere but in the end we wanted to do our own thing and we had decided to do it in the Languedoc-Roussillon because of the price of vineyards and the high potential of the terroir
Why did you pick Trouillas?
I came on a month’s recce of the Languedoc-Roussillon in 2005. Visiting wineries and talking to people in the industry. I liked the style of the wines of Les Aspres. I like the location in terms of accessibility and I also liked it that there were no other new or foreign winemakers here. I wanted to be a pioneer, not riding on a bandwagon. It has had its disadvantages. I find my neighbouring vignerons a bit stuck in the past. A lot of critical and trade attention is focused on villages like Calce and Maury where most of the new winemakers have gone.
What is the history of the cave you bought?
The cave was built in the 18th century but the rear wall is the old fortified wall of the village dating from the 12th C. It was a family estate of 120ha, the biggest in Trouillas, which had been gradually run down and sold-off by the brothers who inherited it and lived in Marseille. It still has 7 of the great oak foudres which used to hold 250hl wine each.  Today we don’t harvest enough to fill one of them.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Trying to do all the different jobs well. It’s hard to put the time into vineyards, winemaking, sales, publicity, administration and tourism and excel in all of them. I also underestimated the importance of trade contacts the general lack of interest in Roussillon wines in countries like the UK and USA.
What wine maker do you aspire to?
Dry River in New Zealand was our original model. There are several producers in the Roussillon that we respect but we don’t want to be them. A lot of people expect us to want to expand and create a hugely popular wine brand but that is not our vision. I believe that is more important to have your own goals and achieve those than to try to be someone else.
How do you get on with local French vignerons?
Generally very well, better than I expected. I think they see us as being like them. Although some of them, especially those with positions of influence within industry organizations, can be stubborn and difficult, but I don’t think that is any different from any other field.
Where do you sell your wine?
Mainly in Germany, the UK and locally but we have importers in Belgium, Holland and Canada as well. It was always our aim to diversify sales and not have all our eggs in one basket.
What wines do you make, at what price and where are they available to buy?
I make 2 white wines, 6 different reds and a sweet Muscat. Everything is focused on quality and creating wines with individual character. Having said that, our goal was always to make wines that can be enjoyed, and afforded by, both wine connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.
They range in price from 6€ to 17€ retail and can be bought from the winery or through our website, which offers free delivery in France.  I think this is unique as most wineries charge a courier fee of around 20-30€. We can also deliver wine to addresses in the UK and throughout Europe. My retail stockists are on my website here
Can people visit the vineyard?
Another of our aims was to provide visitors to the winery with an interesting and enjoyable experience to help them appreciate wine, especially hand-crafted wines like those we love. We’ve conducted educational vineyard and winery tours from the start, even before we had any wine to sell! Now we also have a gite so people can stay at the winery.
One strength of coming from the outside is that we understand how the internet and social media can be a better way of telling our story than the traditional route of advertising and commercial agents. We’re one of the few wine producers who communicate regularly and openly with our customers and the wine community. That has the added benefit of giving us much more direct feedback. It protects us from that common winemaker problem of “believing your own back label”.
Domaine Treloar
16 Traverse de Thuir
66300 TrouillasFrance
Tél : +33 (0)4 68 95 02 29


  1. Karen their story always make me stop and think. The whole journey from the hustle and bustle of a life in NYC to the much calmer rural life making fine wine in the beautiful south of France. Amazing people and amazing wine

  2. I love your blog, because tells another sight of the irish diaspora, outsight the irish amrecian circle, and i see how much the irisy culture grown on french land, and i love this portrait of a legitimum irish family in France, and the cultural contrast, this last year I learned to see a new modern Ireland, the year of Shame,the year that morethan 10.000 irish citzens are sick of the power of the church on their minds and decisions, I'm an amteur writer here in Brazil, and i tried to create a two very bold characters, who came from an multicultural background and the chalenges to fit in country with treir irish amreican, french upbring, I love the irish culture in this countries like france and belgium.

  3. Nice post, Karen. Of course, having worked with Jon and Rachel as one of their UK importers pretty much since they began, I know the story very well, but it is always nice to see it recounted. Nice blog, by the way - how come it took until now for me to discover it?


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