The wines of Champagne Ayala   
Sister house to Bollinger, making Champagnes in a very different style

Ayala began life in 1860 when Edmond de Ayala registered the brand name, and in 1882 it became one of the 18 founding members of the Syndicat of the Grandes Marques. Champgane went through a hard time, and Ayala almost perished in the growers’ riots of 1911, when the rabble sacked the House of Ayala, only for it to be rebuilt and back in action by 1913.

Ayala flourished in the 1920s, but by the turn of the 21st Century was doing less well. It was sold in 2000 to the Jean-Jacques Frey group, and under the direction of Thierry Budin began to find its direction again. In January 2005 Ayala became part of Champagne Bollinger.

We visited with Hervé Augustin (above), who currently directs Ayala. Ayala have chosen to distinguish themselves from Bollinger by emphasizing their own style: one of freshness and purity, with a low dosage (sometimes zero; 10% of their production is zero dosage, also known as ‘Nature’).

‘For our style we don’t want to have too much reserve wine,’ says Herve. ‘We could lose the purity and clarity of our style. Ayala is a completely different approach to Bollinger. We won’t go beyond 20% of reserve wine.’


Vins Clairs from 2008 vintage:

Chardonnay, Chouilly: very fruity, bright and aromatic. Lemony and bright with finesse.

Brut Majeur (final blend as a vin clair): very bright with lemony acidity. Fresh and citrussy with some lovely fruit. Before the bottle is filled for the secondary fermentation this wine will be cold-stabilized, and it will stay 2 or 3 years in the cellars once secondary fermentation starts. The final blend will be 15% of reserve wines, but Ayala don’t have a lot of reserve wine because there wasn’t much stock when they purchased it in 2005.  

Champagne Ayala Brut Nature NV
Exactly the same blend as the Brut Majeur, but with zero dosage. Quite aromatic, with a tight, herby nose. The fresh palate is crisp and lemony with fresh acidity. Very bright and intense with a savoury freshness. Tending towards the austere with even a hint of saltiness. This would work well with seafood and sushi. 88/100

Champagne Ayala Brut Majeur NV
45% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Meunier. Fresh, complex and lemony with lovely elegant fruit. Refined and bright with less obvious complexity, but really impressive. 90/100

Champagne Ayala Blanc de Blancs 2002
This is made solely from Grand Cru vineyards: Mesnil, Cramant and Chouilly. Dosage is 8 g/litre. Fresh, assertive, herby and slightly toasty on the nose. Lovely fresh palate is intense and youthful with a bright, herby quality. Very fresh and intense. 92/100

Champagne Ayala Cuvee Perle d’Ayala 2002
80% of the blend is the Blanc de Blancs with 20% of wine from Aÿ added in (Pinot Noir). Dosage is 7.5 g/litre. Toasty, complex and intense with lovely bright fruit and herby freshness. The palate is rich and intense with bright, complex fruit. Beautifully intense and complex with real freshness. 94/100

Champagne Ayala Cuvee Perle d’Ayala Nature 2002
Very toasty, rich nose is complex and a little herby. The palate is bold and intense with lively acidity and lovely complexity. Very fresh with a herby edge. A thrillingly good wine. 94/100

Champagne Ayala Brut Majeur Rosé NV
51% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, 7.5 g/l dosage. Salmon pink colour. Tight, herby, complex and savoury with a hint of strawberry fruit. Really lovely stuff. 90/100

Champagne Ayala Cuvée Rosé Nature NV
53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir. ‘This is hard to produce,’ says Herve, ‘because you have to be perfect.’ Ayala wanted to create a rosé Champagne that is the polar opposite of the brand leader, which is a little sweet and is 100% Pinot Noir. This is an ‘onion skin’ colour, and has a rich, slightly oxidative nose with a hint of apples. The palate is savoury and tight with complex lemony fruit and a real crispness. Interesting. 90/100  

See also:

Visiting Champagne Bollinger

Wines tasted as 03/09  
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