Relaxing at the Ay Festival
Ay Champagne Festival
6 - 8 July 2012
The Grand Cru village of Aÿ, the greatest of all the champagne villages, is holding its bi-annual Ay champagne festival in July 2012. Aÿ is home to many of the most famous houses such as Bollinger, Deutz & Gelderman, Gosset and Ayala, as well as smaller producers such as Champagne Goutorbe, who make high quality, good value Champagnes, which are mainly from the vineyards of Aÿ.
During the festival there is a tremendous atmosphere in the village as the whole street joins in and many of the Champagne Houses and Growers throw open their doors to the guests. However, this remains a very informal, traditional relaxed French village festival. Despite the old, traditional houses that participate, this event is extremely casual, as is the dress code and although it is well organised the atmosphere is one of “fun” rather than formality. In the evening, the festivities continue with dancing in the streets and end with fireworks!
Reims, our base for the weekend, is home to many of the great names in Champagne: Krug, Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Taittinger and Charles Heidsieck as a few examples, have their cellars here. It has a long and interesting history, being very important in the later Roman Empire and there are several monuments still in evidence dating back to that era, including a Triumphal Arch, the Forum and the stone quarries or ‘crayères’ which are still used as cellars by many Champagne Houses. The 13th century Cathedral has wonderful gargoyles and statues including “the Smiling Angel” and fine stained glass including windows by Marc Chagall. The early Frankish Kings were all crowned here and the Kings of France continued this tradition.
These few days will be packed with fun and, of course, there will be the opportunity to stock up on some superlative Champagne at great value!
Comparative Champagne Tasting
Your Wine Guide will choose a selection of champagnes in order to introduce the various styles and different Houses or growers in what will be a fun and illuminating evening. No two of our tastings are alike and no two Wine Guides have the same approach to presenting them. However you will always taste a diverse range of different champagnes. Most will be very much to your liking but perhaps some will not as we like to seek out unusual wines and perhaps some that you may not be familiar with. Clients find this part of our tour (which is unique to A&C) one of the most enjoyable parts as it is not often that you have the chance to taste a range of champagnes in this way, in comfort, with an informative guide and with no “sales agenda” – we are not trying to promote these wines, just to give you the opportunity to learn about the different styles and flavours.
Dinner at a restaurant of your choice, or join the A&C team!
Reims has a wealth of wonderful restaurants and bistros from Michelin double star (early booking essential!) to more reasonably priced gourmet restaurants and traditional style brasseries. We provide our list of tried and tested ones before the trip, with phone numbers, so you can book ahead if you wish. However, we will make a reseravtion at two of our favourite reasonably priced brasseries and you are very welcome to join our wine guide or tour manager for dinner .
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Next morning, after your glass of Champagne with breakfast, we depart for the first of our champagne visits. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin has its cellars in Reims. The Widow Clicquot is one of the most celebrated women in the wine trade due to her great success in creating the worldwide renowned brand for her Champagnes – the orange label. We will be shown round the stunning chalk cellars of Veuve Clicquot which cover 12 hectares with the majority of the chalk ‘crayères’ dating back to the Gallo-Roman times.
Free Lunch Time in Reims
After our visit you will have time to explore Reims and choose a café table to sit at and people watch while you enjoy some local food and a glass of champagne, perhaps!
Champagne Henri Goutorbe
This afternoon, after time for a leisurely lunch break, we head out to the Grand Cru Village of Aÿ for the festival. We will have an appointment first at Champagne Goutorbe and then you are free to wonder around the village tasting at all the houses which are open, which normally includes the great House of Bollinger. Champagne Henri Goutorbe in Aÿ has been known to us since 1988, when the winemaker René Goutorbe came on our Champagne makers tour to California. This leading grower producer won the prestigious award from the French wine and gourmet guides Gault Millau “Vigneron of the Year 1996” (which is not just confined to Champagne wine-makers) and has continued to thrive.
The Ay Champagne Festival
The greatest of all the Champagne villages celebrates once again with this bi-annual event, known locally as the ‘Fête d’Henri IV’. Henri IV was one of the most popular French kings (1589-1610). He showed great care for the welfare of his subjects and helped to guarantee religious liberties to the Protestants, thereby effectively ending the civil war.
Nearer the date, when the list has been finalised by the village, we will send confirmed participants details of who is offering meals and what they are offering, so that you can make up your mind in advance which option to choose. The houses may charge a tasting fee for champagnes tasted.
Next Morning – Relaxed Departure Time
As you may well have had a relatively late night at the Festival, we do not rush you this morning. The champagne for breakfast is not served until 9.30am. We will not be departing until late morning, so you have time for a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool this morning or a stroll, or simply a lie-in! After checking out we head for today’s visit and lunch-time venue in Avize.
An old, established Grower Champagne that has been marketed since 1872. Benoit Bonnerave is from the Marguet-Bonnerave family and is one of Champagne’s very characterful personalities. Launois own a large number of vineyards in the Côte des Blancs and produce mainly Blanc de Blancs champagnes. We enjoy a tasting over lunch with Champagne Launois.