Yet again I am indebted to my dear friend and colleague, Bordeaux expert and Champagne lover, Bordeaux Blonde, for passing my name on to the PR company organising a wonderful sampling lunch of Duval-Leroy Champagnes at The Greenhouse, Mayfair last week. I went in Wendy’s place and I truly hope that I did justice to the dishes (yummy) and particularly the champagnes (delicious) and now, here to her blog.
This was my third visit to The Greenhouse (number 25 in The Sunday Times’ Britain’s Top 100 Restaurants list, don’t you know?) and, without wanting to sound too swanky, they have always involved Champagne and some Very Important Bods of the wine business. This occasion was no different and I was delighted to be sat next to Sandrine Logette-Jardin, Chef de Cave at Duval-Leroy, the only woman of this rank in Champagne. I have met and tasted with Sandrine before and was charmed by her and her wines then, as now.
Her modesty is typically feminine; she credits Carol Duval-Leroy, her boss, for her success. Having spent all her working life at Duval-Leroy, straight from university and working her way up to take control of the wine-making, it is easy to see why she may think she owes Carol much. No doubt she does, but Carol, who learnt to become a businesswoman overnight when she was widowed very young having to take sole charge, not only of her three young sons, but of a leading Champagne House would not, there is no question, have entrusted Sandrine with such a role if she wasn’t entirely sure she would come up trumps.
And she seriously does. Sandrine produces Champagnes of delicacy, attractiveness and classy commerciality. She makes wines which are firm, focussed and great matches with food; others that are herby, lean, complex and worthy of long-term keeping. There is a house style which runs through the range from Brut NV to the Vintage Blanc de Blancs, from the Rosés to the pinnacle of the collection, Femme, and then there is Clos des Bouveries, something different; from a single vineyard, oak-aged, powerful, an intellectual wine, as Sandrine described it.
Fleur de Champagne 1er Cru NV with Canapés – easy, fruity, fresh and appealing exactly what you want from an aperitif Champagne
Rosé Prestige 1er Cru with Wild Salmon, cucumber, coconut, wasabi and curry – a wonderful pairing. Rosés are not always easy to get right but this, made differently from most, certainly ticks the right boxes and worked beautifully with the dish. 90% Pinot Noir macerated for about 18 hours, Sandrine adds vinified Chardonnay at the end of the wine-making to lighten the colour, add a soft edge and to harmonise the wine.
Femme de Champagne 2000 Grand Cru with Cornish Crab, mint jelly, cauliflower, Granny Smith apple and curry. A classy Champagne this but not the best match with the dish. This is 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir with 25% vinified in oak barrels, so no surprise that the aromas were of apple, honey, toast, truffles. Wonderfully textured, very complete and harmonious, I kept mine in my glass to enjoy with the main dish.
Clos des Bouveries 2005 Cuvée Oenoclimatique with Chicken, truffle, chestnut and squash. This Champagne with all its complexity, its linear quality, its earthy freshness and crispness would have, I think worked so much better with the previous course. It didn’t clash with the chicken however, but I enjoyed the Femme so much more with it. (Sandrine and Julien Duval-Leroy agreed)
Lady Rose NV with Raspberry, lychee, rose. A heavenly dessert with a fun, sweetish Rosé, both of which slipped down far too easily and all too quickly!
How fitting to end with such a perfect match.
Serendipty, karma, good commercial management, call it what you will, Sandrine makes world-class wines and Carol runs (with her sons) a great business with international recognition. Long may the sisterhood run. (Did I mention that 45% of the staff are women?)
A guest post by Champagne Ambassador and Accredited Bordeaux Tutor Laura Clay.