Duval-Leroy is one of the of the last family owned champagne firms.
Since its creation in 1859, when the Champagne families came together to share their interests, Duval-Leroy has been located in Vertus, in the heart of “La Cote des Blancs”, now the second-largest wine growing district in Champagne after Les Riceys.
The House has been renowned since its beginnings: between 1888 and 1893, at the Barcelona, Monaco, Moscow, and Paris Universal Exhibitions, Duval-Leroy was recognized for the quality of its champagne and in 1911 it was the first to elaborate a Premier Cru, called Fleur de Champagne 1er Cru, under the heading of Raymond Duval-Leroy.
Neverthless, much of the popularity and the quality of this top-ranked champagne House is relatively recent: it was 1991 when Carol Duval-Leroy, after the sudden loss of her husband, became CEO and President of the House.
Madame Duval-Leroy, who many consider the 21st century re-incarnation of Madame Veuve Clicquot, immediately took a very active role in the family wine business, especially during harvest time, where she would not only take care of the workers but also assist in grape purchases as well.
Formidable and strong-minded in character in the tradition of the grand dames of Champagne, she shifted the focus of Duval-Leroy away from producing Buyer’s-Own-Brand wines – at that time she assumed control, Duval-Leroy was best known for supplying good value Buyers Own Brand (BOB) champagne to various supermarket chains and retailers – and turned her attention to building up the Duval-Leroy brand.
Working closely with her husband’s colleagues, Madame Duval-Leroy was able to turn the company around: she invested in modern equipment ever since the early 90s, with world markets depressed, developed the traditional distribution channels, increased the product range and expanded the exports.
Thanks to her work within a decade Duval-Leroy has doubled its sales to 6.1 million bottles, of which 60 per cent is now exported, and is now ranked in the top fifteen champagne Houses.
The mark of her success has been shown in the number of top awards and medals that Duval-Leroy obtains regularly at national and international competitions.
The House was also the first Champagne company to experiment with plastic closures to replace traditional cork (on its single vineyard Clos des Bouveries Chardonnay from Vertus, which was launched at the 2009 London International Wine & Spirit Fair).
At present Madame Duval-Leroy, nominated in 2007 the first woman to take up the position of president of the Association Viticole Champenoise, a key trade organisation that oversees quality control in the region, runs the house along with her three sons.
The house, founded in 1859, is still based in its village of origin, Vertus, a village nestling in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, where the family runs 200 hectares vineyard.
The production is mainly Chardonnay (in the Grand Crus), but in recent years the house has signed numerous contracts in the Montagne de Reims area of Champagne to increase its Pinot Noir supply.
Overall, this independent supply, on a scale rarely found in Champagne, provides one quarter of the company’s annual grape requirement, managed by more than 35 year round employees and 350 additional grape pickers during the harvest.
The House produces both vintage and non-vintage cuvée as well as a line of organic and biodynamically produced wines; their tasting room is the only one in Champagne to incorporate photovolataic panels, to have a system for retrieving rainwater and to have soundproofed it with a wall of vegetation.
At Duval-Leroy, the pneumatic presses of 8.000 kg and stainless steel fermentation tanks, entirely temperature-controlled, with a capacity of 100.000 hectolitres, bear witness to technological progress, but exist alongside oak casks that are traditionally used for ageing the main crus. 60.000 bottles leave the site each day and 5 millions are sold each year.
The House is still 100% family-owned, headed since 1991 by Carol Duval-Leroy, President and CEO of the company.
Assistant General Director and grape buyer is Michel Oliveira and cellar master is Sandrine Logette-Jardin, the only female cellar master in Champagne.
The predominance of Chardonnay grapes in the elaboration of the cuvees gives finesse, lightness and elegance to the Duval-Leroy champagnes.
The House is based in Vertus, in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, and a number of the wines reflect this location, as they demonstrate a certain quality of Chardonnay not to be found elsewhere.
Chardonnay represents 27% of total Champagne vineyard production. This white grape produces a white juice and a colourless pulp. The characteristics of this wine are its subtlety, lightness and elegance. When young, its aromas in the wine are made up of floral notes, acacia, hawthorn, almond, green apple, lemon and grapefruit. When mature, it has the scent of brioche, toasted bread and mocha.
Pinot Noir represents 38% of the Champagne vineyard production. This black grape with a white juice and colourless pulp yields a robust, structured wine, long on the palate, with the aroma of red fruits.
Meunier totals 35% of the Champagne vineyard production. It has similar visual characteristics to Pinot Noir, but it yields a wine with a well-balanced assemblage; fruity and supple, with a strong bouquet and the aromas of pear and apple.
The range, which is extensive, including several non-vintage cuvées, rosés and prestige wines, is hence characterised by elegance, freshness, with good fruit.
Duval-Leroy develops its own blends, a jealously-guarded secret known to the cellar master alone, which give a special quality and enduring consistency to the wines.