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The wines of Jean Leon, Penedès, Spain

Jean León is one of the pioneers of foreign grape varieties in Spain. He emigrated to the USA in the 1940s and worked in the Villa Capri restaurant in Hollywood. A chance meeting with James Dean led to them setting up La Scala restaurant together, and following Dean’s premature death León went on to create another three eateries.

It was then he turned his sights to wine, and returned to Spain in 1961 to purchase an estate aiming at producing world-class wines from international varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 150 ha estate has some 68 ha currently under vine, but there is the potential to extend this to 100 ha. It was purchased by Miguel Torres in 1995. The Terrasola wines are made from bought in grapes; the rest are estate wines. They showed very well here.

Terrasola Chardonnay-Garnacha Blanca 2001 Catalunya
Mostly Chardonnay with some Garnacha. Very bright fruity nose with a slightly spicy streak. Soft, rather simple fruity palate. Good/very good

Terrasolo Syrah-Cariñena 2001 Catalunya
Appealing nose of sweet herb-tinged berry fruit. The palate is savoury with an earthy, spicy streak to the bright fruit. Attractive fruit forward style. Very good

Jean León Chardonnay 2001 Penedès 
Barrel-fermented and spends 6 months in new French oak. Quite a sophisticated nose of toasty oak and ripe fruit. The palate is quite classy with a nice balance between the fruit and the oak. Some nutty vanillin notes and a soft, rich texture. Very good/excellent

Jean León Merlot 1999 Penedès
Very appealing forward nose with a spicy, liqueur-like edge to the exotic berry fruits. The American oak used here adds upfront appeal. Fruity palate with savoury, spicy character and firm tannins. Quite ambitious in a very forward style. Very good+

Jean León Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 1996 Penedès 
This spends two years in oak – the first in new French and the second in 2nd use French and American. Very appealing leafy edged berry and blackcurrant nose, together with some spicy oak notes. The chunky dense palate has a nice minerally edge. Firm tannins complete what is quite an ambitious wine. Drinking well now. Very good/excellent

Jean León Gran Reserva 1994 Penedès
Only made in exceptional vintages. Quite an evolved earthy, spicy, leathery nose. Classy complex palate displays herb-tinged berry fruit with some secondary ageing characters: leather, tea notes. Well integrated and classy, not relying on power for effect. Very good/excellent

see also: tasting notes of Spanish wines

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