Steeped in history, the Duval-Leroy Champagne house is one of a kind. Founded in 1859, it remains an independent, family business, even after six generations. In fact, of the top ten Champagne houses, only Duval-Leroy remains family owned. Although this hasn’t been achieved without its fair share of difficulty and heartache.
Located in the town of Blancs-Coteaux in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, a subregion of Champagne, Duval-Leroy has been producing distinguished and elegant, dry bubbly sparkling wines for 164 years, and is recognised as one of the very best Champagne houses—only the larger more famous Champagne wineries have the honour of being named ‘houses’.
Wine Merchant Armand Edouard Leroy met grape grower Jules Duval in 1859 and they began working together. In a pleasantly unexpected turn of events, Duval’s son married Leroy’s daughter, establishing the name Duval-Leroy.
The first Duval-Leroy son, Raymond was a forward-thinking winemaker, and in 1911, when the vineyard classification became official, one of his first innovative moves was to create the world’s first champagne made completely from Premier Cru grapes. Premier Cru translates as the ‘first growth’. It indicates wines of a superior classification, just one tier below Grand Cru.
Great Champagne vintages
During the First and Second World Wars, the Champagne region was devastated as it was situated on the frontline of both. The majority of Champagne houses were damaged and cellars were looted by German soldiers. Raymond made a difficult decision to cut down on annual production from 100,000 to 25,000 bottles, but Duval-Leroy never stopped producing. In fact, Champagne vintages from 1914-1917 and 1944-1946 are all deemed high-quality vintages. Most of the grape growing and harvesting was done by women and children at this time, as the men were away at war.
In 1950, the Champagne house was handed down to the next son in line, Charles Roger Duval-Leroy. Over the course of the next few decades, the facilities of Duval-Leroy were updated. The focus was on the land, producing top-quality Champagnes and further developing the brand Duval-Leroy, bringing recognition and prestige to the name.
In 1985, Duval-Leroy was once again passed down to another heir: Jean Charles. He started cultivating a new prestige cuvée, Femme de Champagne, ‘Woman of Champagne’. Unfortunately, Jean Charles never finished the cuvée as he passed away in 1991 at the age of only 31.
His wife Carol bravely took on the company, while also raising three young boys. Her first objective was to finish what Jean Charles had started and she completed the Femme de Champagne. Made from 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir, this champagne has a beautiful delicacy and lightness that dazzles in the glass.
The female quality
Carol has received multiple medals and awards for her efforts in Duval-Leroy. She is the first and only woman to date to be appointed president of the Association Viticole Champenoise. Her second objective was to create a Head of Quality Control role in the Champagne house. She appointed Sandrine Logette-Jardin as her second in command. Within three years, Duval-Leroy became the first house of Champagne granted the ISO 9002 certification. In 2005, Sandrine Logette-Jardin, became the first woman to become the head winemaker at Duval-Leroy and in the Champagne region as a whole.
In recent years, Carol’s three sons have become involved in the family business. Julien, the eldest, is the general manager, tending 200-hectare of sustainably farmed vines and is heavily involved in the winemaking process. Charles handles communication and marketing. Louis, the youngest, is in charge of public relations, promoting the diversity and elegance of their champagnes to various chefs, sommeliers, wine merchants and wine enthusiasts around the world.
Over the 160 years of business, Duval Leroy has seen it all, but one thing this champagne house continues to do consistently is to make absolutely deliciously bright and gleaming top-quality, award-winning Champagne.