A bespoke concept that oenophiles will savour, Duval-Leroy’s recently launched initiative allows champagne lovers to create their own cuvée during a hands-on programme at its vineyard and cellars in Vertus, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northeast France. Cuvée Sur-Mesure is the brainchild of president and CEO Carol Duval-Leroy, head of one of the few remaining 100 per cent family-owned houses, and a woman oft compared to the grande dame of champagne, Mme Veuve Cliquot.
A personal blend takes about two days to create, which includes lunch or dinner at the Duval-Leroy HQ, so that guests can immerse themselves fully in the ethos and DNA of the brand. The vineyard can also book an optional overnight stay at the three Michelin-star L’Assiette Champenois if desired.
The adventure begins with vineyard director Michel Oliveira, who first illuminates wine lovers about the champagne terroirs and the different cultivation methods: conventional, organic or biodynamic. Next, there’s a rendezvous with Sandrine Logette-Jardin, head of cellars, to taste and tap into the secrets of winemaking, blending and dosage. It’s up to the individual to decipher the poetry of oenology and terroir, says Logette-Jardin. “Currently the house cultivates about 200 hectares, much of which is devoted to production of high-quality Chardonnay grapes. The predominance of Chardonnay in the elaboration of the cuvées gives a finesse, lightness and elegance to the champagne,” she explains.
The three main grapes include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, to which lesser-known varieties such as Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc can be added, according to taste. The nascent winemaker then decides between such elements as floral or toasted aromas, a creamy or spicy palate and the intensity of flavour. Delivery of the finished engraved bottles takes three months; the minimum order is 1,000 and the cost £40,000.
Three premier French chefs – Eric Fréchon of Lazare in Paris, Christophe Bacquié of Hôtel du Castellet in Var and chef/sommelière Rachel Lefebvre of Octopus in Béziers – have already created their own signature blends, and their vintages are on the wine list in each of their restaurants. “It’s very emotional to create a personal vintage reflecting my own style, and to see my signature on the bottle,” says Fréchon.
He opted for 10 per cent Pinot Noir from Louvois and 90 per cent Chardonnay grand cru and premier cru grapes from the 2002 harvest, matured in oak to bring out the richness of flavour. The result has “golden highlights and fine, delicate bubbles, is full-bodied in the mouth and is pure and intense. I’m impressed at how well it matches my cuisine,” he says. Bottles are available for €89 or by the glass for €16.
Guests will be invited to create their own blend. “It’s exciting,” says Mme Duval-Leroy. “When finished, the champagne reveals the character of the winemaker; his or her personality expressed in beautiful bubbles. It’s a unique gift I would love to receive.”