Leon the king
background music...Frank Sinatra singing ...I did it my way
From rags to riches, from Santander to Beverly Hills,
the story of an insatiable appetite for life, food, wine and the brotherhood of man.
Behind every winery there is a story and Penedès is full of them but when you add it up, the story or stories of Jean Leon are pure Hollywood.
But first back to the basics, how to produce one of the finest wines in the world. That was and still is the job of Jaume Rovira, the only oenologist at Jean Leon, to produce the wine of the stars.
Jaume has introduced unique solutions to create world beating wines.
Acquire the very best vines from your favoured French Chateaux. Match each variety to the soil and be prepared to tear the lot out if you are not completely satisfied with the results. Double the number of vines per hectacre and half the production, improve aeration and exposure to sun.
Ferment and macerate the red wine must in wide vats for more oxygen and greater extraction of colour and tannins. Malolactic fermentation to take care of any unpleasant acidity. Lots of different oaks, American, French and Hungarian, long, beautiful corks that seal better and reduce the amount of air in the bottle-- a big advantage with wines destined for ageing.
On this last point it might be said that many Penedès wines are leaving the bodegas well before they are ready for drinking. You buy an expensive bottle and discover oodles of character but the softness is missing. Leave a glassful in the end of the bottle and try it the next day. If it improves, go back and buy 3/6/12 bottles for next Christmas.
The wines of Jean Leon include a young Chardonnay , a Chardonnay aged in oak, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, a Gran Reserva and Zemis, the dreamers wine.
There are also Terrasola, a range of more accessible wines by the hand of the same oenologist.
The Terrasola range includes two whites and a red. These are usually the fusion of native and classical varieties and there is no guaranteeing they will be the same blend two years running. They are very seriously good wines but they are also for having fun with.
The Jean Leon Petit Chardonnay is treated to a very light exposure to the wood which adds a hint of third flavour and whisker of structure to an already profoundly solid wine. The flavours are long and reminiscent of melon, vanilla and toast.
The oak fermented Chardonnay has plenty of structure, body and flavour, baked apple, apricot and spices, the taste goes on for ever.
Jean Leon Merlot displays all the signs of an intense creation, the colour was strong and fresh though not as thick as other Merlots from Penedès. Smashing on the nose, yet once again more restrained and controlled. On the palate the rich flavours of Merlot are there with some Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc in the background. It’s a wine with a long life line and to find out what happens to a world class wine over 8/10 years a box of 12 could work out good value for a long and educational tasting.
The same is true of the Cabernet Sauvignon reservas which are ready now with soft meaty character, cherries, raisins, licorice and long sweet tannins.
Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva If you’re ever likely to succumb to fine wine addiction here is the reason to break into your piggy bank.
The art of patience and delayed appreciation will be rewarded provided great care is taken in choosing the appropriate moment to remove the cork. Deep full flavour with lots of complexity, on the nose, in the mouth and long after the last drop has vanished.
Jean Leon History
In 1947 Ceferino Carrion (Jean Leon) left Barcelona and began the journey of a lifetime. A year later he was applying advanced employer searching tactics and was soon serving the royalty of America in Hollywood.
A brief hiccup with “papeles de residencia” and this peace-loving man found himself serving the American forces in the Korean war. He survived and headed straight back to Beverly Hills, a new passport, new name and lots of soon to be very famous friends such as James Dean, Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner and many others.
Jean worked at the Villa Capri owned by Sinatra and Joe di Maggio and later opened La Scala with James Dean. Sadly Dean was to die in a car accident 5 days later.
If you were lonely and a bit publicity shy you could have dinner in the kitchen or call Jean and he would personally bring it around to your house, which wouldn’t be a bad job if the customer happened to be a regular caller, Marilyn Monroe.
On the side, Jean Leon was dreaming about creating his own finest wine. I can only presume many visits were made to Marilyn’s, because the purchase of a 150 hectacre estate, complete replantation, maintenance and 10 years waiting before your first real bottle is a lot of hot dinners and 100 dollar tips.
Jean Leon, an amazing salesman, Jaume Rovira an inspired oenologist, many actors and statesmen later and the dream of a perfect wine continues at Jean Leon, blending excellence and originality with the eternal rhythm of Penedès wine country.
For those of you who love a good ending, there is a lifetimes supply of one of the world’s finest wines if you know the sailor, a gentleman of African decent, who saved stowaway, Ceferino Carrion (Jean Leon) and helped him land in New York in 1947
[email protected], www.jeanleon.com
El Moli Tours bike/walk route
The Jean Leon route is one of the great "rings" of Penedés. It takes about 2/3 hours and includes the historic paper making town of Sant Pere de Riudebittles and a visit to Cavas Nadal.
Our journey to Jean Leon by car, bike or foot is along a quiet gravel lane. We saviour the history and architecture of Sant Pere de Riudebittles. If Artist David Ribas is at home we will have a chance to view some of his excellent work. We leave Sant Pere and follow the old road to El Pla de Penedés. Our route brings us out onto a plateau with magnificent views of Montserrat to the north, el Garraf and Olerdola to the east and el Pla and Guardiola to the south.
We coast through olive trees and vineyards to the Jean Leon visitor centre, a small collection of organic glass and brick structures that mimic and maximise the landscape. There's an intimate reception area with theatre which leads to a separate conservatory/tasting room with the rolling mediaeval south plain of Penedés as one wall. We get to that after ogling the winery, barrel room and cellar where we are allowed to finger dusty vintages. The wine making style of Jaume Rovira from cultivation to fermentation is singular in the world but its driving force was a gentleman of vision and style who did things his way.
Let it rip Frankie. Paddy Mannion [email protected]