BEST CHAMPAGNE had the pleasure to meet Sandrine Logette-Jardin, Chef de Caves of DUVAL-LEROY, a Champagne House that has enjoyed growing popularity in the last few years thanks to its seductive wines.
Sandrine Logette-Jardin Chef de Caves of DUVAL-LEROY

Sandrine Logette-Jardin became Chef de Caves of DUVAL-LEROY in 2005

The House was founded in 1859 in Vertus, in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, the Chardonnay dominated subregion of Champagnes. 

The predominance of Chardonnay grapes in the elaboration of the cuvées gives finesse, lightness, and elegance to the DUVAL-LEROY champagnes.

The range of champagne is extensive and includes several non-vintage cuvées, rosés and prestige wines, all of which are characterized by elegance, freshness, and fruity notes.

Sandrine Logette-Jardin craft these sensual champagnes using her sensitiveness, her strong analytical skills, and her feminine inclination for care and obsession for details.

In this interview, she explains her intellectual approach to making champagne, and how this is first and foremost an act of touching people through emotions. She definitely reaches her purpose. Try a bottle of DUVAL-LEROY and you’ll understand. 

BEST CHAMPAGNE: What characterizes DUVAL-LEROY champagne?

SANDRINE LOGETTE-JARDIN: DUVAL-LEROY champagne is characterized by the substantial use of Chardonnay, which brings freshness and elegance to its blends.

Another of our champagne’s features is fine bubbles, also brought by the significant use of Chardonnay. These grapes bring small bubbles compared to other varieties in Champagne because of its different amino acid composition.

We also avoid clarifying wines (with collage) to keep them naturally rich in proteins, which creates a higher viscosity that contributes to creating very fine bubbles.

Our intention is for these bubbles to take part in the pleasure of tasting the champagne but to never take over the wine because what counts for us is keeping the wine’s natural richness.

All of our wines undergo malolactic fermentation to make them suppler.

A small percentage of our wines are vinified in oak barrels to enrich the finish. We stir the lees of these wines, according to the characteristics of the year, to add complexity and creaminess but without ever making them too heavy or powerful.

BC: Why do you include two Brut non-vintage champagnes in your range?

SLJ: That is a historical choice made by our House. DUVAL-LEROY is meant to be a House of elegance, which we find in the Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru through the considerable use of Chardonnay.

Raymond Duval made this champagne at the beginning of the 20th century to use the best grapes available in the House’s supplies, in the grands and premiers crus.

This cuvée is characterized by its emblematic floral notes, hence the name of the champagne. It is mostly made up of Chardonnay (70%), and some Pinot Noir (30%) because DUVAL-LEROY is located at the heart of Côte des Blancs, a Chardonnay terroir, given our own vineyard and our supplies.

The Chardonnays used in this cuvée come from the Côte des Blancs, Vertus, Chouilly, Mesnil-sur-Oger, but also from the Montagne de Reims (Reims Mountain), Trépail and Villers-Marmery.

The Pinot Noir used comes from the right bank of the Vallée de la Marne, from Cumière, Mareuil-sur-Ay, Avenay-Val-d’Or, and from Bouzy in the Montagne de Reims, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Ludes, and Rilly-la-Montagne.

We have always used these villages in this cuvée during the 26 years that I have been at DUVAL-LEROY.

Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru also contains 1% of reserve wines aged in barrels, not to bring woody notes, but to slightly enrich the finish.

The Brut Réserve blend is very different, with 10% of Chardonnay, 60% of Pinot Noir and 30% of Meunier, and 40% of reserve wines (15% for Fleur de Champagne), which is where it gets its name.

Therefore, it is mainly a Pinot cuvée that uses all of the terroirs of the Champagne region. The Chardonnays come from Sézanne, Vitry-le-François and the outskirts of Epernay.

The Pinot Noirs come from the Montagne de Reims but especially from Aube, and the Meuniers come from the Vallée de la Marne, but only from the right bank where they are fully ripe.

With Brut Réserve, we want to keep the leitmotiv of elegance, as well as the evidence of the fruit because when champagne has aromas of flowers and is fruity, the consumer instantly recognizes a clear message of pleasure.

To keep the elegance in Brut Réserve, we work a lot on where the Pinot Noir comes from, as these grapes are predominant in this champagne, to obtain wines with an elegant and underlying structure from the Côte des Bars and the Montagne de Reims while avoiding any heaviness in the finish. The idea is to make you want a refill.

Our Brut Réserve is a federating cuvée; it targets the widest possible audience and must be accessible and pleasant. In any case, our champagne range is large enough to satisfy different palates.

BC: Why do you not use any Meunier in Fleur de Champagne?

SLJ: Meunier brings fruity, oxidative notes but is unlikely to age well, and our Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru is intended to be marketed after at least 30 months on lees; it is, therefore, a wine meant to age.

Also, Meunier does not age at the same rate as other grapes, even if it comes from a premier cru terroir, so it will evolve a lot quicker.

BC: What is the dosage of these Brut non-vintage champagnes and what is your approach to dosage?

SLJ: These two non-vintage Brut cuvées have a dosage of 8 g/l. It is, therefore, an ideal dosage to enjoy champagne at any time of the day.

All of our champagnes receive an optimal level of dosage to obtain a finish with the right acidic tension to make the consumer salivate and ask for more.

BC: You make extra brut champagne. How does it blend into this vision of richness, without being austere, with this prevalence of Chardonnay and a limited dosage?

SLJ: Extra-Brut Prestige Premier Cru, with a dosage of 5 g/l, is made up of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir, but also 50% reserve wines, precisely because the finish needs to be generous and the acidity needs to be integrated.

I have looked for richness in the reserve wines, and a fruity finish in the Pinot Noirs. The 2% of wines that are vinified in oak barrels reinforce the richness and complexity of this champagne.

BC: You use high proportions of reserve wines. Why?

SLJ: Reserve wines bring consistency and aromatic complexity to the champagne.

At the same time, however, we want to stay on the fruit, so I play around with the aging parameters of this high proportion of reserve wines to remain on fresh fruits, but also to include some fruits with extra complexity.

BC: Your Rosé Prestige cuvée is highly praised. What makes its success?

SLJ: It is a rosé wine with an unusual blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The Pinot Noir comes from three different places: Vertus, Bouzy and Ambonnay, and go through short macerations, separately, village by village.

The Pinots from Vertu bring notes of cherry and redcurrant with a round and supple mouth, and those from Bouzy and Ambonnay bring aromas of strawberry and raspberry, as well as a more vinous structure.

As I want to keep the champagne’s elegance – the key word at DUVAL-LEROY – I combine the strength of these Pinot Noirs with Chardonnay grapes, from 10 to 20% depending on the year, from Mesnil-sur-Oger and Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, which allows me to obtain more freshness.

Therefore, Chardonnay is the acidic skeleton to which the richness of Pinot Noir is added.

BC: What characterizes Femme de Champagne, your prestige cuvée? Why did you choose to also market this champagne in half-bottles?

SLJ: Femme de Champagne is a precise expression of the Champagne terroir, with a mix of around 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, only chosen from grand crus.

Femme de Champagne in half-bottles is aimed mainly at lovers of great champagne, at a female audience, at slightly older people who love to drink a glass of great champagne every day or evening, alone or as a couple.

It is also a format that is very suited to hotel rooms. The half-bottle size creates more opportunities to drink champagne. We hesitate less to open a bottle of champagne, therefore it is a solution to drink it more moderately.

It also allows you to taste both versions of Femme de Champagne, white and rosé, without having to open two 75cl bottles.

BC: You have launched a range of single-parcel champagnes. What made you do this?

SLJ: It is a form of freedom where we can present champagnes that aren’t in the same spirit of our range of champagnes.

These wines come from certain of our own parcels, planted each with one grape variety only: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Petit Meslier (a forgotten grape variety).

Therefore, these champagnes allow you to really identify the different expression of their terroirs: Bouzy in the Montagne de Reims, Vertus in the Cote des Blancs, and Cumières in Vallée de la Marne.

BC: You are one of the few female Cellar Masters. Your President is a woman. Is there a different approach to the way that you make champagne?

SLJ: Our feminine side makes us very sensitive to client satisfaction and very attentive in the presentation of our products. Our protective instinct also makes us protect our wines, be very demanding and check everything twice, like the choice of blends, for example.

Our fame is relatively new, even though our success is growing every day and the name DUVAL-LEROY is now recognized in a lot of places. But our mantra remains to always do better.

BC: What is your intellectual approach to creating champagne? What do you look to convey with it?

SLJ: When you think about a blend, you have an idea of the objective that you want to achieve, but your inputs change every year.

Even if the grapes and the origins of the vineyards are the same, you have a different color palette to reach similar results because you need to keep a certain style.

This is not easy, mathematic reasoning helps a bit, but blending remains an empirical exercise.

From my comments when tasting, I always include the factual parameters of tasting, the aromas that I find, the attack, the body, the persistence and the length, but there is always a more personal and emotional side.

I put the emotional side first, then the factual side; I ask myself if I like it or not, and then I decode it.

I look to create emotion. I want people to feel pleasure when tasting our wines, no matter the technical level and ability to taste: I want to touch people through emotion.

For me, champagne is fruity evidence and delicacy, therefore, I apply a particular technique for a specific purpose.

BC: What is champagne for you?

SLJ: For me, champagne is first and foremost sharing, friendliness, an important moment, a prop for happy moments.

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