A tour of the Penedès and its wines

Art and Culture

23/02/2023

The Penedès is a wine region in northeastern Spain that has become synonymous with quality wines. The influence of the Mediterranean climate makes the region a rich land for the cultivation of vines.  

The history of wine in the Penedès dates back to the 6th century BC, when the axis of the Mediterranean wine culture passed through the region. Proof of this is the site of the Font de la Canya, an inhabited center of goods from the Iberian period, between the 7th and 1st centuries BC, located in the heart of the Penedès. The recovered materials informed us about the commercial exchanges with Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. And they allowed us to date the beginnings of the vineyard and wine in the territory, starting with the commercial exchanges with the Phoenicians.

In addition, archaeological work carried out in the vineyards of the winery last year revealed a site from the Iberian period of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. A discovery that connects the winemaking past of the Penedès and the present of Jean Leon’s winery.

The magnificent geographical situation of the Penedès made this area become a great land of wines that increased its prestige over time. 

Over time, wine production in the Penedès has evolved and has become the economic engine of the region, with more than 6000 people working in the more than 250 wineries in the area.

Today, the wineries of the Penedès continue to produce high quality wines, thanks to the combination of tradition and technology.

Penedès Zones and Subzones

Currently, the Penedès Designation of Origin identifies 10 zones within the territory: Alts d'Ancosa, Conca del Foix, Costers de l'Anoia, Costers del Lavernó, Costers del Montmell, Marina del Garraf, Massís del Garraf, Muntanyes d'Ordal, Turons de Vilafranca and Vall Bitlles-Anoia.

Although broadly speaking, we can divide the Penedès 3 subcategories, based on altitude, and therefore, with different climatic characteristics: 

  • Upper Penedès, close to the pre-coastal mountain range. 
  • Lower Penedès, next to the coastal mountain range and the sea. 
  • Middle Penedès, located between the two previous zones.

Bodegas Penedès

The wines of the Penedès: varieties and characteristics

wines del penedès

The wines of this area are known for their unique flavor and aroma, which are due to the combination of the quality of the grapes and the influence of the Mediterranean climate. The DO Penedès produces red, white and rosé wines, ranging from young and light wines to mature and complex wines. 

Varieties 

The DO Penedès has a wide range of wines with traditional varieties and others that have been successfully introduced and acclimatized in the area. 

The white varieties authorized and recommended by the DO are:

Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada, Subirat Parent, Garnatxa blanca, Moscatell d'Alexandria, Moscatell de grano menudo, Malvasia de Sitges, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chenin blanc, Sumoi blanc, Viognier, Xarel.lo rosat and Forcada.

While the red varieties authorized and recommended by the DO are:

Ull de Llebre, Garnatxa tinta, Samsó, Monastrell, Sumoi tinto, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot noir, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Moneu.

Among all these, we highlight the following:

  • Xarel-lo: Flagship variety of the Penedès and Jean Leon, since we make our wine 100% xarel-lo. This variety is characterized by a white grape from which both still and sparkling wines can be made, used for young and aged wines.  
  • Chardonnay: International variety introduced in the Penedès in the 1960s. It is also used for wine and sparkling wines. We currently make 2 wines with this variety: Vinya Gigi and 3055 Chardonnay
  • Garnacha Blanca: Grape commonly used for blends, although more and more single varietals are being produced. GB-21 experimental wine, this is our single varietal white Grenache. 
  • Forcada: A minority ancestral variety, but interesting for climate change, due to its late ripening and high acidity. In 2020, we planted this variety on our estate, which was approved that same year by the appellation.

  • Garnatxa Tinta: Traditional Mediterranean variety. It produces wines with very good alcohol content and body, suitable for aging in oak. At Jean Leon we have a rosé wine 3055 Rosé that has a small part of red garnatxa in the blend. 
  • Merlot: It is found in the Central Penedès and is used to produce excellent varietal and aromatic wines, as well as full-bodied and tannic wines such as our Vinya Palau.
  • Pinot Noir: A variety that has demonstrated a great capacity for acclimatization in the Penedès. It gives an aromatic excellence and admits a good aging. The wine 3055 Rosé also has this wonderful variety. 
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Another example of a variety that has demonstrated a great capacity for acclimatization in the Penedès. Its aromas become more complex with aging, exhibiting notes of smoke, cedar and truffle, like our wines Vinya le Havre and Vinya la Scala.  
  • Petit Verdot: Thanks to its late ripening, it has adapted well in the region. It brings color, aromas, acidity and tannins to the wines. Our 3055 Petit Verdot-Merlot is also organic.

Jean Leon and his relationship with the Penedès region

In 1962 Jean Leon arrived in the Penedès in search of the best land to make a wine that would be up to the standards of his select clientele at his Beverly Hills restaurant, La Scala. Having already traveled all over the world in search of an area with specific characteristics that would allow him to make a wine with a singularity, personality and unique identity, he decided on the Penedès. 

During that year, he acquired 150 hectares of the best land in the region and proposed to Jaume Rovira, then a 21-year-old oenology student, to join the team of the future winery. 

A year later, to the surprise of the local winegrowers, Jean Leon included grafts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay vines from prestigious French wineries in his vineyards. An unusual decision that resulted in the first wines made and labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon in Spain.

More recently, in 2002, we planted the first Petit Verdot vines, on an experimental basis, but they were approved by the DO in 2010. Finally, in 2011, we released the first vintage (2010) of Jean Leon 3055 Merlot-Petit Verdot (until 2012 known as 'Petit Merlot'). And in 2020, we planted Forcada and Moneu in the Jean Leon vineyards, two native varieties recently approved by the appellation.

Jean Leon wines are renowned for their quality. The result of a unique combination of tradition, innovation and the spirit of valuing the territory.

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