On Monday 17th November the WING group met to taste Champagne Duval-Leroy, courtesy of Ralph.

Duval-Leroy, founded in 1859, is the largest Champagne house still in family ownership. In the past selling mainly to the restaurant trade, it made a step change in 1991 when Carol Duval-Leroy took over.

Located in Vertus, in the heart of “La Côte des Blancs”, Duval-Leroy cultivates about 200 hectares, much of which is devoted to Chardonnay grapes. The predominance of Chardonnay in the cuvées aims at achieving finesse, lightness and elegance.

Ralph showed us 5 Cuvées.

The Demi-Sec & Extra-Brut

The Demi-Sec & Extra-Brut

(Waitrose, Ocado & The Champagne Company stock some of these wines currently – all are 12% or 12½% abv)


Here are my notes :

Extra Brut nv
An innovation of Carol D-L, this is 100% Chardonnay and with low dosage (under 4.9 g/l). Quite dark in colour, the nose at first had apples, polish, honey and only a hint of brioche. Sharp grapefruit acidity on the palate lasting though until a hint of peachy fruit merges. Very vinous and with a shortish, light mousse the wine became a – pretty good – white Burgundy. To emphasise this later – linseed, butter and nutty elements appeared on both nose and palate.

“Fleur de Champagne” Brut nv
This is lighter in colour with a more vigorous mousse – signifying youth? About 80% Chardonnay the nose shows lemon and lemon peel, with a floral hint and typical yeasty, bready hints. Slightly sweeter palate gives a sherbet impression, which counterpoints the warmer – more lemon – acidity well. Quite persistent flavours without the development of the previous wine – a more “normal” champagne that would be a good aperitif sparkler without the vinous qualities of the preceding wine.

Demi-Sec nv
The back label of this wine recites the dosage regulations for Extra Brut (0-6 g/l); Brut (<15 g/l) and Demi-Sec (33-50 g/l) [these in fact have a +or- 3 g/l tolerance] – Sec is 17-35 g/l! Residual sugar is likely to be within 3 g/l of the dosage.

This wine is about 90% Pinots, and – unsurprisingly – is deeper coloured and has bigger, coarser bubbles. The nose is bready, apply and… cheesy (!?) putting me in mind of a Wensleydale, Yorkshire cheese platter. The palate is very sweet indeed with a sherbet overall impression and some spicy notes – ginger, some thought. I can see the wine might be useful with the right food but the sugar balance very high for my palate.

“Paris” Vintage 2006
Classic mid straw colour – I suppose you’d have to call it Champagne coloured. Slightly stewed fruit and citrus nose, with the merest yeasty hint. Light mousse, and a richer palate than all the previous wines, mouth coating with balanced citric acidity and peachy fruit – quite long with a nutty, almond finish. Another rather vinous Champagne with the bubbles really a side-show though they are more influential than in the first wine. Rather good.

“Lady Rose”
A Rosé from – mainly(?) – Pinot Noir, this has a pale salmon colour and a slightly red-wine nose – strawberry maybe, backed with the citrus and polish notes again. The palate has a lighter sweetness than the Demi-Sec, perhaps a sec-level dosage. Rather a confected overall impression, and not at the standard of the previous wines, might work with just the right fruity dessert.

Vertus Marc de Champagne XO – 40%
This has a more yellow/golden colour than most Eau-de-Vie, though it shares the same grappa nose, with a peach hint. An untypical sweet fruit – peach again – on the palate, makes a surprisingly clean and smooth digestif.

A fascinating tasting – with, as so often with sparkling wine, the sparkling wine character sometimes seeming less interesting than the vinous quality of the underlying wine. I guess that’s a side effect of interrogating these wines critically, rather than quaffing at a celebration. Personally I preferred the vinous qualities of wines 1 and 4, to the (very good) bubbly qualities of wine 2.

Thanks so much Ralph…….