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Duval-Leroy first woman head of Champagne association

Carol Duval-Leroy has become the first woman to be named head of a key Champagne trade organisation – the Association Viticole Champenoise (AVC).

Duval-Leroy, 52, took over the post of AVC president last week and will serve a four-year term, succeeding former Bollinger head Ghislain de Montgolfier, who replaced Yves Bénard as president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne earlier this year.

She has been in charge at Vertus-based producer Duval-Leroy since her husband died of cancer in 1991. Reviving the gutsy spirit of previous Champagne widows such as Veuve Clicquot, Lily Bollinger and Louise Pommery, Duval-Leroy took over the business despite having little or no experience in the trade.

But in the years since, she has overseen a gradual transformation of Duval-Leroy into a more brand-driven business, selling 5.2m bottles of Champagne in 2006, 60% of them exported.

The AVC has a broad viticultural brief within the structure of Champagne’s generic interprofessional body, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC). Its responsibilities include setting the annual harvest dates.

Duval-Leroy’s election comes at a sensitive time for the region, with Champagne struggling to keep pace with soaring demand around the world.

In an effort to keep pace with this, the maximum permitted yield in the vineyards was increased to 15,500kg/ha this year, and plans are in hand to increase the size of the appellation.

As demand for quality grapes from the major houses increases, prices are increasing to worryingly high levels. Champagne insiders report grape price increases of up to 8% in 2007 alone.

Written by Richard Woodard

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