Jean Leon | Wine

SM-16, a re-encounter with the varietal origins of Penedès

X-15, X-16, CF-15 and now, SM-16. In other words: Xarel·lo, Cabernet Franc and Sumoll. These three varietal wines, each limited to a production of about 2,000 bottles, harvested and sealed by hand, are the stars of our experimental wine range. We began with Xarel·lo in 2016, followed by Cabernet Franc late last year, and now we unveil SM-16: A Sumoll varietal wine characterized by elegant red fruit notes and immense freshness. A re-encounter with the varietal origins of Penedès, the land that welcomed Jean Leon and gave birth to Sumoll, an ancestral red grape. On a mission to find out more, we talked to Mireia Torres, Jean Leon’s director, and Roser Catasús, the winery’s enologist.

Roser. How would you describe Jean Leon’s Experimental Wine range?

Generally speaking, the aim of the experimental wine range is to showcase the vast vinicultural potential of the Penedès region through limited-production varietal wines made from exceptional varieties.

Mireia. Why did you decide on a Sumoll?

We wanted to continue in the spirit of the experimental X-15 and X-16 (Xarel·lo) and pay tribute to another Penedès variety. Sumoll was very popular in the area prior to the phylloxera outbreak. In fact, it was the most widely grown red grape in the region. So we really liked the idea of making an experimental Sumoll.

R. Some say that Sumoll is a delicate variety that is difficult to grow. Why?

As a variety, Sumoll displays some special characteristics. In terms of winegrowing, it is resistant to drought, heat and cold. The grapes are big, elongated and thin-skinned, and they come loose easily. This is what makes Sumoll so delicate. With this variety, it is particularly important to monitor maturation very closely to harvest at exactly the right time.

M. What sets Jean Leon’s SM-16 apart and what goals did you have in making it?

We were looking for organoleptic balance without losing varietal essence. We want the wine to evoke the Penedès landscape.

R. How is the wine made?

We hand-harvest the grapes, and the wine spends 9 days in contact with its skins and receives délestage-style pump-overs. Alcoholic fermentation is done in a concrete conical-bottom tank and lasts a total of 20 days. Finally, the wine is aged for 6 months in a French oak foudre.

M. How would you describe the 2016 vintage?

I would say the 2016 vintage is very good. The previous season, 2014–2015, had seen below-average precipitation levels. Although the summer was hot and very dry, rainfall in mid-September, along with a drop in temperature, changed the conceptual framework of the remaining harvest. This meant that red varieties with a longer cycle could reach the desired level of ripeness.

R. Could you tell us about the vineyard behind the wine?

The vineyard is planted on hillsides at an elevation of 250 meters. The vines are over 40 years old and grow in very rocky clay soils.

M. How would you describe the wine’s expression?

It has an intense garnet color. Red fruit and spices on the nose. We weren’t seeking a very extracted wine but elegance. And of course, like every Sumoll, it has the kind of acidity that results in a good midpalate.

R. How many bottles did you produce?

This is a very exclusive wine with a very limited production of only 2,182 bottles. Every bottle is sealed and labeled (collar) by hand.

M. Who is the target consumer for SM-16?

A consumer 2.0 or 3.0. What I mean by that are people who love wine, but who also have a certain amount of knowledge. They have a particular appreciation for different and exclusive wines that offer a true expression of their terroir of origin. Like the other experimental wines, SM-16 is sold at specialized stores and served at high-end restaurants.

R. Are you contemplating a new experimental wine for the 2018 vintage?

We plan to continue the varietal wine range that we began with Xarel·lo. We’re weighing different options but can’t say more at this time. 😉

If you want to know more about our new SM-16, visit our website.