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,
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.