Jean Leon Penedès

The Torres owned Jean Leon Penedes vineyards are a peculiar wine brand to spark an interest in wine for an Italian wine blogger. Yet it was thus, twelve years ago aged just twenty six, that I visited my very first vineyard as part of a “team building” trip for the travel company I ran in Barcelona. Readers of this blog will know that I have spent eight of the last twelve years in Italy and Spain, working in the wine and travel trade but before this I spent a year in Barcelona solely in travel having not yet stirred any interest in my heart for wine.

jean leon penedes

So by happy coincidence a trip to the Jean Leon  Penedes vineyards was organised by our industrious office manager who loved the wines of the Penedes region (and also the cheap Cava awash in Barcelona) and we all set forth in our mini van quite unprepared for the scale of the vineyards or the size of the personality of Señor Jean Leon.

The wine game, in itself, is a pretty glitzy and glamourous business and all of us bloggers light up any room we enter but Jean Leon takes wine glamour to a whole new level. Born in northern Spain, in the port of Santander in 1928, Jean Leon’s story is like the pheonix from the flames (quite literally as his family home burned to the ground in 1941) as his childhood set backs toughened the young Ceferino Carrion (you can’t really be called Jean Leon and live a life so cool, that’s not fair) and led him to try his luck in Paris, New York and Hollywood.

 

With no immigration papers in New York he took manual work but soon found himself in trouble with authorities and crossed the USA to Hollywood *jazz hands*. To become a legal immigrant Leon enrolled in the US Army during the Koreon War. After the war Leon found work in the Villa Capri restaurant in Hollywood, owned by Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra. Making friends with the screen legends who frequented Ol‘ Blue Eyes establishment came easy to Leon and, due to his friendship with James Dean, he eventually opened the La Scala restaurant in Beverley Hills *jazz hands*. This restaurant was immediately popular with the Hollywood film stars and sports stars alike.

Jean Leon threw his passions wholeheartedly into his restaurant and chose the wine list himself but could never find, as he would say “that perfect wine” or “el vino perfecto” depending on his audience I suppose. So, Jean Leon began the quest to find a perfect piece of land upon which to start his own winery. Leon travelled to France and Italy and eventually landed in Catalonia, Spain and in the Penedes wine region just outside of Barcelona and bought his 150 hectare estate in the hills.

It’s uncanny how similar our lives are really. Back to me.

 jean leon vineyards

We arrived at the Jean Leon estate and were quite unprepared for this incredible story and after our group asked the usual cringe-worthy questions (which seemed quite reasonable at the time) “Can you get red wine from white grapes”, “You only get 1 litre of juice from all those grapes, hurumpf, I wouldn’t bother, why do you bother?” we went on to try his wines and were taught how to taste and giggled along at how ridiculous the whole swirling, sniffing and slurping was.

 We all came away with wine though and for me at least, I remember being remarkably impressed at the effort that goes into producing vino, and the different levels on which it can be appreciated and all these different grapes! Amazing!

Since this mini adventure I’ve retried a few of the Jean Leon Penedes wines and both the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay can be good value but not always terroir espressif*. Of course with a young wine region it’s hard to say exactly how the terroir should represent, but what can’t be denied is that this is quality winemaking at a very fair price, great value winesThough I do find many of his wines to be way over-oaked for my personal tastes these wines have a big following all over the world.
jean leon la scala

 Jean Leon Penedes – Tasting Re-do April 2018

Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva 2002PASS – €20

The wine sits a deep ruby red verging on purple and is initially very good and happily expressive on the nose, too much wood hides the fruit though there are some good blackberry notes and touches of graphite too. The palate is dense and woody, tannic and a bit bitter perhaps needs a lot more time, not sure where they are going with this or what it is trying to be. Not badly made just not a great taste to it. 81 Points

Jean Leon Terrasola Syrah 2005BUY -€10

A mid ruby red the nose is punchy and fragrant with lots of interesting notes, still a little too much wood here. The bouquet is blueberries, caramel and redcurrants however it is on the palate that this wine pleases with great fruit following through to a good length on the end. Rarely do you get this kind of balance and solid fruit on a €10 bottle of wine. 87 Points

Jean Leon Merlot/Petit Verdot 2015BUY – £12

Pronounced, clean nose with dark concentrated plums and black fruit with a hint of dried leaf. The palate is full and flavourful, rounded with good tannin and a good length on the finish. This is a fruit forward, well made wine, always helped by the Petit Verdot. 88 Points

Jean Leon Vinya Le Havre Reserva  2011BUY – £20

Deep cheery red in the glass. The nose is jammy and dense with berries, balsamic and spicey pepper with a touch of vanilla. The palate follows the same flavour profile, its bold, smooth with a long finish that’s the note of great wine making, grippy tannins ensure a bit of age can be handled. 91 Points

Where can I buy wines from Jean Leon Penedes?

These wines are widely exported and you can even buy many bottles from the range on Amazon (don’t do that!), support a wine retailer like Fareham instead. Fareham are currently carrying the Merlot/Petit Verdot blend and the Chardonnay 3055 bottlings.

Leave a Comment
First vineyard you ever visited? Most stupid wine question you ever asked? Or anything about Jean Leon wines or wines from Penedes.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. winesleuth says:

    First vinyard I ever visited was Robert Mondavi -as an underage drinker no less (was barely 19, they didn't ID back in the day). Dumbest question I ever asked- there are too many!! Great story, love the jazz hands and if I ask nicely, can I use terroir expressif?

  2. Ryan Mars says:

    Can you get Red wine from White grapes? That's even dumber

  3. Matt Sears says:

    Also the Mondavi vineyards some times ago. Great minds winesleuth.

  4. drinknectar says:

    First Vineyard visited was probably one in Yakima Valley, WA – dumbest question (one of many) – do they actually put pears in this to get the pear flavor?

    First time reader, loved the writing.

  5. Keith says:

    Shouldn't it be terroir espressif?

    Eons ago my father took me to the Loire valley where I acquired my taste for Sancerre. I've been back almost annually ever since.

  6. Anders says:

    Freiherr von Heddesdorff in Mosel.

    Unbeatable Riesling.

  7. IvarsC says:

    Hello Sarah

    Surfed in via Twitter and really think your blog is excellent. You do not find that many readable Italian wine blogs as many of them are too deeply technical.

    I am a knowledgable Italian wine fan though and my favourite visit, although not first visit, was to Conterno in the late 1980s although for scenery and ambiance Cavallotto has much to offer.

    Do you spend time in the Barolo crus?

  8. Kayaker says:

    Château Lascombes was the first one I visited.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Miguel Torres! Most people who come to Penedes do Torres and Leon, surprised you didn't do the double tour.

    Ted in Barcelona

  10. Joseph Phelps.

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