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The scale of Duval-Leroy’s modern winery in Vertus is a physical statement of the rapid pace of progress at this family-owned company. Celebrating its 150th birthday recently, it now ranks as the ninth largest in Champagne, thanks to the vision of its dynamic leader, Carol Duval, who has progressively expanded the estate since the death of her husband twenty years ago. Chardonnay takes the lead in these graceful and elegant wines, reflecting the bright fruit purity of the village of Vertus.
Approaching Duval-Leroy along its elegant driveway, the imposing building looks like it would be more at home in Silicon Valley than a small village in Champagne. The entire façade is covered in solar panels, 250 square metres in all, sufficient to provide for the electrical needs of the barrel room, tasting room and reception area. It’s a drop in the ocean of this mighty facility but it makes a bold and immediate statement that Duval-Leroy has sunk a serious investment into its modernisation and growth. And that’s just the beginning.
Step inside the largest facility in Vertus and you’re greeted by lines of gleaming new tanks, all temperature controlled to between 16 and 20oC to preserve delicacy during fermentation. Five gentle eight tonne pneumatic presses are cleverly positioned above thirty settling tanks, gently delivering the must by gravity. Dug deep underground, this facility operates on multiple levels. The production process was modernised in 2009 when the facility was extended to enable all production to be integrated under one roof to improve efficiency and quality. At the same time, a new barrel room was added for fermentation of grand cru parcels.
The house controls 200 hectares in the Côte des Blancs (including an impressive 150 hectares in Vertus and holdings in all the grand crus), Montagne de Reims and Côte de Sézanne, providing a generous one-third of all fruit required for an annual production of 5 to 5.5 million bottles. This is serviced by five press centres and some eighteen million bottles in storage 30km away in Châlons-en-Champagne.
Duval-Leroy manages a sustainability regime that’s more than just a solar panel façade. A ten page document on the company’s web site details all of its initiatives in the vineyards and winery. The use of weed killers has been reduced by more than half in the past decade and all estate vineyards are cultivated organically or biodynamically, an impressive credential for a house of this size. Duval-Leroy purchases fruit from a number of organically certified growers, which finds its way into two organic champagnes.