Sandrine Logette-Jardin was appointed chef de cave of Duval-Leroy in 2005, but she joined the house earlier, after her degree in enology when she was appointed head of quality control. A precise and very logical mind, she crafts sensual champagnes using her strong analytical skills, but also her sensitiveness, and her feminine inclination for great care and attention to details. She explains her intellectual approach to making champagne and how this is, first and foremost, a way to touch people through emotions.
What characterizes Duval-Leroy champagnes?
Duval-Leroy champagnes are characterized by the substantial use of chardonnay, which brings freshness and elegance to the blends.
Duval-Leroy champagnes are characterized by the substantial use of chardonnay, which brings freshness and elegance to the blends. They have fine bubbles, also brought by the significant use of chardonnay, because of its different amino acid composition that produces smaller bubbles than pinots. 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. All of our wines undergo malolactic fermentation to make them suppler. A small percentage of them are vinified in oak barrels, not to bring woody notes, but to slightly 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.
Why do you include two brut non-vintage champagnes in your range?
That’s a historical choice. Duval-Leroy is a house of elegance, which we find in Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru through its emblematic floral notes–hence its name–given by 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 grands and premiers crus. It is mostly made up of chardonnay (70%) and some pinot noir (30%). We have always used the same crus in this cuvée since I have been at Duval-Leroy. The chardonnays come from the Côte des Blancs, from Vertus, Chouilly, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, but also from the Montagne de Reims, from Trépail and Villers-Marmery. The pinot noirs come from the right bank of the Vallée de la Marne, from Cumière, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Avenay-Val-d’Or, and from the Montagne de Reims in Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Ludes, and Rilly-la-Montagne. Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru also contains 1% of reserve wines aged in barrels.
The blend of Brut Réserve 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 the terroirs of Champagne. 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, and the evidence of the fruit because when champagne has aromas of flowers and is fruity, the consumer instantly recognizes a clear message of pleasure. The crus used in this pinot-based cuvée permit to obtain wines with an elegant and underlying structure while avoiding any heaviness in the finish. The idea is to make you want a refill. Our Brut Réserve targets the widest audience and must be accessible and pleasant. In any case, our champagne range is large enough to satisfy different palates.
Why do you not use any meunier in Fleur de Champagne?
Meunier brings fruity, oxidative notes, and evolves a lot quicker than the other grapes, even if it comes from premiers crus. So, it is unlikely to age well, and our Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru is marketed after at least 30 months on lees; it is, therefore, a wine meant to age.
These two wines 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 consumers salivate and ask for more.
You also make extra brut champagne. How does it fit with the prevalence of chardonnay–a fresher grape–in this blend?
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. We vinify 2% of the wines in oak barrels to reinforce the richness and complexity of this champagne.
What is your philosophy on reserve wines?
Reserve wines bring consistency and aromatic complexity to champagne. At the same time, however, we want to stay on the fruit, so I play with the age of these reserve wines to remain on the fresh fruits, but also to include some fruits with extra complexity.
Your Rosé Prestige Premier Cru is highly praised. What makes its success?
It is a rosé champagne with an unusual blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. The pinots come from three different crus: Vertus, Bouzy, and Ambonnay and go through short macerations, separately, village by village. The pinots from Vertus 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 elegance–the keyword at Duval-Leroy–I combine the strength of these pinot noirs with chardonnays, from 10 to 20% in the blend depending on the year, from Le 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.
What characterizes your prestige cuvée Femme de Champagne? Why do you make this champagne also in half-bottles?
Femme de Champagne is a precise expression of the Champagne terroir, with a mix of around 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir, only from grands crus. Femme de Champagne in half-bottles is aimed at people who love to drink a glass of great champagne, alone or in pairs. This format is also very suited for hotel rooms. In general, it creates more opportunities to drink champagne; we hesitate less to open a bottle of champagne, therefore it favors drinking moderately. It also allows you to taste both versions of Femme de Champagne, brut and rosé, without having to open two 75cl bottles.
You have launched a range of single-parcel champagnes. Why?
With these champagnes that aren’t in the same spirit of our range, we express freedom. These wines come from certain of our parcels, planted each with one grape variety only: pinot noir, chardonnay, and petit meslier. Therefore, these champagnes allow you to identify the expression of their terroirs: Bouzy in the Montagne de Reims, Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, and Cumières in Vallée de la Marne.
You are one of the very few female chefs de cave in Champagne. Your president is also a woman. Is there a different approach to how you make champagne?
Our feminine side makes us very sensitive to client satisfaction and very attentive in the presentation of our products.
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 the 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 many places. But our mantra remains to always do better.
For you, creating champagne is more a matter of technique or emotions?
When I think of a blend, I have an idea of the objective that I want to achieve, but the inputs change every year. Even if the grapes and the origins of the vineyards are the same, I have a different palette of colors to reach a consistent style. This is not easy, mathematic reasoning helps, but blending remains an empirical exercise. When tasting, I always include the factual parameters, 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. In the end, I look to create emotions. 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 emotions.
I put the emotional side first, then the factual side; I ask myself if I like it or not, and then I decode it. In the end, I look to create emotions.
What is champagne to you?
For me, champagne is sharing, friendship, a prop for happy moments.