23rd June 2024
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Spotlight: Jean Leon marks 60 years of winemaking

Jean Leon, the iconic winery of Penedès (Catalonia), has celebrated its 60th anniversary this year by taking a nostalgic look back at its origins with the redesign of all four of its single-vineyard wines: Vinya Gigi, Vinya Palau, Vinya Le Havre and Vinya La Scala, adorned with labels reminiscent of the originals from the sixties – as well as the launch of a special limited edition of Vinya Le Havre 2013.

1963 was the year when Jean Leon – born Ceferino Carrión in 1928 in Santander (Cantabria) – made his winemaking vision a reality by purchasing 150 hectares in the Penedès. Before that, he had achieved great success in Hollywood in the 1950s, where he owned La Scala, a restaurant frequented by the era’s most influential names in the entertainment industry, politics and high society, including Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Marlon Brando.

On a visit back to Barcelona in the early 1960s, Jean Leon seized the opportunity to visit Penedès, on a search for the perfect spot to realise his second big ambition: to make a wine to delight his select clientele at La Scala. Deciding Penedès was the right place to produce a signature wine with a unique personality and identity, he  asked Jaume Rovira, then a 21 year old enology student, to join the team of his future winery. 

In 1963, Jean Leon planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in chalky clay soil, which he named ‘La Scala’ after his celebrated restaurant. He also planted Cabernet Franc vines, and later Chardonnay, brought over from France, laying the groundwork for an extraordinary journey. The initial 1969 vintage made from Cabernet Sauvignon was served exclusively at his restaurant. A few years later, the 1975 vintage was poured at Ronald Reagan’s presidential inauguration dinner in 1981, alongside the 1980 Chardonnay from the Gigi vineyard named after Leon’s daughter.

Later additions included the Le Havre vineyard, a tribute to the French port where he embarked as a stowaway to America in 1949 and the Palau vineyard in 1991, named in honour of his birthplace, Santander. As Jean Leon approached retirement, he passed down his winery’s legacy to the Torres family, trusting them to keep its distinct personality alive and ensuring the winery’s legacy lives on. 

The winery, owned by Familia Torres since 1994 and directed since 2010 by Mireia Torres, was the first to make a single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon wine in Spain and to obtain the recognition of ‘Vi de Finca Qualificada’ (Qualified Estate Wines) in the Penedés region for four of its wines, the highest distinction awarded by the Catalan government. With 65 hectares of vineyards, all Jean Leon wines have been certified organic since 2012 and are sold in more than 40 countries. 

Mireia Torres

In celebration of its 60th anniversary, Jean Leon has released newly refined versions of four wines: Vinya Gigi Chardonnay 2022, Vinya Palau Merlot 2018, Vinya Le Havre Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2019, and Vinya La Scala Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 2016. Each bottle features the wine’s original logo, classic typography and an illustration of the winery and surrounding vineyards. Vinya La Scala features a painting, as it does so with every new vintage.

To mark the milestone, Jean Leon has also released a limited edition of the Vinya Le Havre 2013. This wine demonstrates the great ageing potential of Jean Leon’s wines from the Penedès region. You can purchase the wine via the online Petit Celler store: Jean Leon Vinya Le Havre Reserva – Edición Especial 60 Aniversario con Estuche.

Jean Leon remains close to its founding principles of being a boutique winery that produces limited-edition vintages and small batches with unwavering standards of quality. The winery has stayed true to the philosophy of its founder, too. In every wine, it seeks innovation and elegance to keep making history – and continue the story of a self-made man who fought tirelessly for his dreams. You can read more about the history behind the Jean Leon winery and enjoy its wines and tours by clicking here: www.jeanleon.com 

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