Women and Champagne have always been seen as a natural combination. It is no wonder that marketing efforts have long focused on Champagne’s femininity and joie de vivre. Over the centuries, Champagne shares a closely intertwined historical relationship with women who have transformed the entire region to what it is today. Through iron will and devotion, these women continue to lead the evolution of Champagne in production and promotion. From Madame Clicquot who pioneered riddling process to Madame Pommery who popularised Brut Champagne, the region has one of the longest list of heroines in winemaking history.
Asian Palate speaks to Madame Carol Duval-Leroy, Managing Director ofChampagne Duval-Leroy
over lunch hosted byKedington Fine Wines
at Hutong. Since taking the helm in 1991, Madame Duval Leroy has worked unrelentingly to enhance professional understanding of quality Champagne by partnering closely with food and beverage leaders and sponsoring sommelier competitions.
AP: What is it like to be a woman and manager in the French Champagne industry?
CDL: I do not see being a female manager as a weakness but as an opportunity. I had the chance over the years to bring more freshness to the firm, from the taste of our champagne to the simplicity of the working atmosphere. The battle of egos was typical in Champagne and is still up to date for some managers. I believe so much in women’s better ability to work for the common good that I hired women at key levels in Duval-Leroy.
AP: Can you share some tips or advice to women who aspire to become serious wine professionals?
CDL: Women have to be better than men to be successful. Working standards have been set by men for men. Women [have] had incredible accomplishments in a fairly small amount of time—having to cope with taking care of the household, another full time job! I am not focused on diplomas or appearances but on hard-working and trustworthy women. Women [who are] able to think out of the box also have the edge. I also think that women have a better “nose” (ability to recognize aromas) and so could be an asset for wineries and sommeliers.
AP: Who are some women that you would regard as role models?
CDL: Actually, there are none. But in the past, some women had an important role in Champagne such as Madame Clicquot, Pommery and Bollinger. I am not looking for models anywhere, but I am trying to promote the fact that women are as good as men in all aspects, and if my actions could be an inspiration for some, I would be honored.
AP: Since you were born in Belgium, how would you rate Belgium beer versus Champagne personally? What is the position or image of Belgium beer (national pride) and French Champagne (family pride) in your heart?
CDL: Haha, that’s a tricky question! That’s two different products [and] it is not possible to compare side by side. I love them both and depending on the day, I would pick one rather the other. Nevertheless, I love wine in general and beer, I am not complicated at all!