The history of Champagne holds a number of extraordinary women. Among them are Madame Clicquot, widowed at age 27 (“Veuve,” in French, means widow), who effectively built the Champagne house of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin; Madame Louise Pommery, another young widow, who turned a modest red wine business into Champagne Pommery; and Lily Bollinger, who brought the house of Bollinger to world-wide fame after WWII, and who made the oft-quoted statement in regard to Champagne, “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.”
But they are the exceptions. Historically, powerful roles in Champagne (as in the wine business overall) have been dominated by men. So I was intrigued to meet recently with Sandrine Logette-Jardin, the chef de cave—chief winemaker, essentially—of Champagne Duval-Leroy. Sandrine is not only the first woman chef de cave at an independently owned Champagne house, she’s also an extraordinarily talented winemaker, judging from the current Duval-Leroy releases; beyond that, Duval-Leroy’s president is also a woman, Carol Duval-Leroy.
“I think a lot of the other houses now regret not having a female chef de cave," Logette-Jardin said, when I asked about her role. "But it also helps that I have a female boss—Carol is a very resilient woman, very courageous, very ambitious, and she wants to keep her independence. She’s a lion—that’s literally what people have said about her. And for me, I find that in general the other chef de caves are very happy that I’m in this role…except for a few who might be looking for a job like mine!”