Terroir: the secret of quality wines

Wine tourism

02/05/2024

In the world of wine there is a concept that arouses the curiosity and admiration of winemakers, sommeliers and wine lovers: terroir. But what does this term really mean and why is it so important for the taste and quality of wines?

In this article, we will discover the concept in depth, from its origin to its current definition, developed by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). In addition, we will learn about the importance and influence of terroir in our Qualified Estate Wines.

What is terroir?

Terroir is a French term that, in Spanish, is equivalent to terroir. According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), viticultural terroir refers to the area in which vineyards are grown, including both the interactions between the physical and biological environment, as well as the viticultural practices applied there.

To better understand this concept, let us recall its history and evolution. Benjamin Bois, former president of the OIV Viticulture Commission, in his explanation of the term, takes us back to 12th century France, when the term "terroir" was used to designate a specific agricultural area. Over the centuries, the concept has expanded to include a wide range of elements, from soil composition and climate to the biological environment of the vine.

How does it influence the wine?

All the soil characteristics of the area such as climate, biodiversity, topography or landscape are elements of terroir that give unique characteristics to the products originating from that region. For this reason, this concept is much more than a simple geographical designation, it is the essence of a place that will determine the quality and uniqueness of the wine.

For all this, each terroir has distinctive characteristics that will make the wines have a unique identity that makes them inimitable. In the case of our Qualified Estate Wines, the terroir becomes a key element for their identity and excellence. Each bottle reflects the influence of the unique environment in which they are developed. 

The terroir in our Qualified Estate Wines

The terroir of our Estate Wines has very special microclimatic characteristics which, together with the specific characteristics of the soil of each one, as we will see below, make them unique.

The climate

The Jean Leon winery is located in the Penedès DO, with an area of 150 hectares, of which 65 are for production and 35 only for the cultivation of our 4 estate wines. In terms of terroir, the estate is located at 280 and 310 meters above sea level.

The climate of the region is Mediterranean and is characterized by being mild and warm. Due to its location, it is protected from cold winds, but is open to the Mestral and westerly winds.

On the other hand, it has many hours of sunshine and fairly frequent rainfall, which favors the ripening of the grapes. In addition, it has a small slope that is of vital importance for the drainage of the rain, since the Penedès is located in a depression between sea and mountain.

penedès

The land

The first Jean Leon vineyards originated in the 1960s, specifically in 1963, when the first vines were planted in the "Vinya la Scala" vineyard. This terroir is characterized by a calcareous, clayey and stony soil, which gives Jean Leon wines their exceptional character. 

Four years later, in 1967, Jean Leon planted the first Chardonnay vines in the "Vinya Gigi" vineyard which, with its clayey, calcareous and compact soil, became a unique and high quality variety.

In 1968, the "Vinya Le Havre" vineyard was planted, with a terroir defined by its clay-limestone soil, thus bringing a particular and different character to the diversity of Jean Leon wines. 

Finally, in 1991, the first Merlot vines were planted in the "Vinya Palau" vineyard, where two types of soil, clay-limestone and sandy with gravel, offer a rich variety of nuances and flavors to this emblematic grape variety. 

These historic events mark the beginning of a winemaking tradition based on respect for the terroir and commitment to winemaking excellence. A limited environment, with unique edaphic and microclimatic characteristics compared to the rest of the vineyards in the area, is what makes our Qualified Estate Wines authentic expressions of the terroir in which they grow. 

Regenerative viticulture

Another important characteristic of the terroir is the practices applied when working the land. As a sign of our commitment to the environment, we have been applying organic farming techniques in our vineyards since 2008. This means that we avoid the use of systemic pesticides, chemical synthesis fertilizers, industrial pesticides and herbicides, using instead natural organic fertilizers and techniques such as pheromones or Bordeaux stock to prevent pests, which allows us to respect the natural rhythm of the vine and achieve naturally balanced vineyards. At the winemaking level, we use indigenous yeasts for fermentation and carry out fining with products of natural origin.

In addition, at Jean Leon we are increasingly aware of the effects that climate change is causing and we are acquiring more sustainable habits to improve the planet and reduce our carbon footprint. For this reason, we are one of the founding members of the Regenerative Viticulture Association, which was created in 2021 to promote a paradigm shift in vineyard management worldwide, based on regenerating soils to promote biodiversity and make them more resilient to climate change. 

The techniques based on regenerative viticulture are based on maximum respect for the terroir of the wines, always promoting the biodiversity of the ecosystem and making it more resistant to temperature changes without losing product quality. Some of the objectives of this practice are:

- Increase the microbial biodiversity of the soil.

- To obtain regenerated soils that have better availability of water and nutrients.

- To have soils with a higher organic matter content that retains water better. 

- Increase carbon fixation in the soil.

- Reduce erosion.

At Jean Leon, every bottle that leaves our cellar is a tribute to the land it comes from and to the passion we devote to each stage of the process. Let yourself be seduced by each of our wines, where history, tradition and nature come together in uniqueness and exceptional quality.

Categorías: Wine tourism