Jean Leon—the boutique, little sister of Torres—has long been one of my favourite wineries in the Penedès. Certainly it’s one of the sexiest: a curvaceous glass and wood structure set amid rolling, sun-kissed vineyards. As places to drink wine go, it doesn’t get much better than this, especially since the wines are so very good.
The winery has a long history, starting with the man himself (originally from Santander) who set off to seek his fortune in America in the early Forties, eventually winding up in Hollywood. As chance would have it, he met and struck up a friendship with James Dean, with whom he set up La Scala, one of the great power restaurants of the Fifties and Sixties frequented by megastars like Marilyn Monroe (Jean Leon was one of the last people to see her alive), Frank Sinatra and the notoriously difficult Humphrey Bogart.
As time went by Jean Leon began to hanker for the homeland, and set his sights on creating the kind of wines he felt were befitting of his glamorous clientele. In the late Sixties, he headed back to Spain in search of the right kind of terroir on which to plant French root stock. A bold move. He was the first to introduce French varietals like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc to the region. When he got sick in the early Nineties he agreed to sell the winery to Miguel Torres—a lifelong friend—on the understanding that he maintain its boutique approach. Under the steering hand of Miguel Torres Jr., the winery has thrived, yet lost none of its small-guy appeal.
Terrasola is a relatively new sub-brand conceived to capture the essence of the Catalan landscape (terrasola means ‘small terrace’) and in some ways pays homage to Jean Leon's early vision. It also represents some of the first wines to combine international and local grape varieties. All retail at around €9.90.
Terrasola Muscat-Garnacha Blanca is a light, sprightly drinker with glimmers of tropical fruit combined with more herbaceous flavours. Nicely balanced acidity makes it ideal as an aperitif or with food. It’s particularly good with sushi.
Terrasola Sauvignon Blanc and Garnacha Blanca is lush and deliciously refreshing. Think melons, pears and pink grapefruit. A real crowd-pleaser that is a match made in heaven for oven-baked dorada on a bed of potatoes and onions.
Terrasola Tempranillo-Monastrell is a fresh, light red that works well chilled down as those first days of spring take hold. Try it with calçots and grilled meat, or a traditional paella Valenciana.
Terrasola Syrah-Garnacha is a floral and elegant, with a touch of sweetness, a little caramel from the oak and big, jammy red berry flavours. Perfect with pork and chicken.