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Champagne Duval-Leroy
By Jim Clarke

In the tradition of Madame Veuve Clicquot and others, Carol Duval-Leroy became head of the company upon her husband’s sudden death in 1991. The early 1990s were a troubled time in Champagne, largely because of bumper crops – oversupply - and a fall in sales, creating an uncomfortable glut. During Champagne’s return to popularity and relative health Duval-Leroy has emerged as a strong company offering excellent wines and good value.

Champagne is like all other wines, even with its complicated production process: it is made in the vineyard. Traditionally, however, Champagne houses buy their grapes from the region’s growers rather than holding and farming their own vineyards. Duval-Leroy, however, is the ninth largest vineyard-owner in Champagne; even though much of their product is nevertheless made from bought grapes, they still have this great advantage in maintaining quality - as well as controlling costs. They are also fortunate to now own sites in all of the Côte de Blancs Grand Cru vineyards - the best vineyards in Champagne for Chardonnay, which provides much of the elegance and floral qualities to a finished, blended Champagne.

Since the nineties the company has been taking full advantage of its possessions in the vineyard by modernizing its winery, allowing them to expand their range of wines and increase quality across the board. Duval-Leroy now offers twelve different blends, including four premium cuvees. Their most recent and innovative release is the Lady Rosé, an off-dry wine blended specifically to accompany richer desserts; to make it more convenient in this context it is only offered in half-bottles. Creating Champagnes that match well with food is a passion for Carol Duval-Leroy; she once dreamed of being a chef and is now applying her knowledge of food as she works together with Chef de Caves Hervé Jestin to create their line of wines. She feels Champagne can reach far beyond its toasting and aperitif status and is planning a number of upcoming events to feature her wines in a food context.

From the outside, Champagne seems to be an unchanging world of tradition. Each winemaker creates a blend for their house style that seamlessly obscures the vagaries of different vintages: the product is timeless. But behind the scenes producers are always changing and adapting, and at Duval-Leroy the changes made since Carol Duval-Leroy took over have raised their entire portfolio to a new and exciting level.

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 Published: April 2004
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