The story of Duval-Leroy Champagne is 159 years in the making and began when Édouard Leroy, wine négociant, met Jules Duval, grape grower and it has remained a family business carrying the family name. Today Duval-Leroy cultivates about 500 acres of vines, mostly in the southern area of Champagne where their headquarters are situated at Vertus. Their main footprint is Côte des Blancs, famous for some of the world’s best chardonnay grapes, Premier and Grand Cru appellations, grown using sustainable viticulture. Côte des Blancs yields champagnes which are known for light and delicate aromas, finesse and elegance. Duval-Leroy is known as a pioneer of sustainable grape-growing in the trademarked Champagne region.
Duval-Leroy’s Alexis Vaernewyck ran a Masterclass at The Phoenicia, who to their credit have Duval-Leroy champagnes on their in-room service menu, at the iconic Club Bar, available by the pool, or as an indulgence either at the chic, cosmopolitan and casual Café Phoenicia or in their flagship dining room The Phoenix. We taste 5 magnificent bottles with Alexis over a period of about an hour, the Blanc de Blanc, Brut Reserve, the delightful Rosé Prestige with delicate red fruit berries in abundance dancing like sherbert at the back of the throat, Brut de Femme and the pièce de résistance, a 1996 Femme that took the breath away.
Duval-Leroy Blanc de Blanc is an elegant bottle with a slender neck that allows those little bubbles to gently fizz and swim all the way to your waiting glass. Made from the world’s most expensive chardonnay grapes, more than 1.5 kilogrammes are in this chummy chintzy chardonnay giving it real body and richness. A great champagne to quaff prior to getting to the real action.
Brut Reserve is one of the true masterpieces from Duval-Leroy, and this is why Carol Duval-Leroy is President of the Champagne Makers Association, a blend of pinot and chardonnays this product embodies the unique power and character which marks out a top-of-the-range champagne. Alexis pointed to the bottle at one point and said, “This is my favourite.” Personally, it would go well with Maltese rabbit, game meats such as rabbit are packed with plenty of sauce and flavour which this banging bubbly will blast away before you have another few mouthfuls. The Phoenix’s Confit Rabbit Leg herb de Provence would be just right with this minor masterpiece.
Duval-Leroy Rosé Prestige, is a shower of pink stars yielding to a deeply satisfying red fruit fizz, a taste familiar somehow with cramming wild red berries straight from the bush, enticing and handy for seduction. This is painting the town pink, a definition of hot midsummer nights in July with the barbecue blazing.
Femme Brut Grand Cru is the product of Duval-Leroy’s pampered chardonnay vines, smells like a French bakery and holds the colour of a yellow sapphire. Grapes, sun and water fizz gently in the glass; a carnival of floral flavours that Alexis suggests is paired to flash fried scallops. The wide-hipped bottle with a swans neck is capped with a generous gold wrap. This is a ‘femme’ with exquisite taste, dressed in all her finery. A real beauty.
Then we come to a 1996 Femme that is purity on the palate. With mid-slope plots, the grapes reach optimum ripeness because the rays of the sun that touch the vine are shorter and warmer. The older vines concentrate their vigour to produce fewer clusters that are of higher quality. Winemaker Sandrine Logette-Jardin has managed to pull off a conjuring trick, the 20 years of ageing explode as utter freshness in the mouth. It’s truly a celebration of time in a bottle, a mark of genius from a notable winemaker.
Alexis Vaernewyck’s visit was to act as host for a luxurious wine dinner with wines from Duval-Leroy organised by P. Cutajar. This wine dinner was held at the Phoenix and featured 5 dishes from the hotel’s award-winning brigade of chefs, designed by executive chef Daniel Debattista to complement the 5 carefully selected Duval-Leroy champagnes to pair with each dish.
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