Ay-en-Champagne (51 Marne, Champagne) is a small wine village just a few kilometres from the busy town of Epernay and the valley of the Marne. Its vineyards are classified as Grand Cru (the highest rating on the Échelle des Crus) and Champagne Bollinger is based in the village.
Ay is fortunate in being located at the junction of several terroirs of exceptional quality on the right bank of the Marne river, at the southern border of the Montagne de Reims and close to the Côtes des Blancs – all with different character.
Ancient houses line the medieval streets, many of them with inner courtyards for protection, whilst there are numerous 19th Century townhouses which reflect a more prosperous age for the village.
This in the heart of the Champagne vineyards and you could choose to stay in a B&B with Champagne vineyard attached at Domaine Sacret. Or stay at the art nouveau Hotel Castel Jeanson. Or just a few kilometres away at Les Mesneux you could stay in a self-catering apartment at Coeur de Vigne (Heart of the Vine)!
The village is only 30 minutes or so from Reims by car – over the famous Montagne de Reims.
Every other year in July the village celebrates with its Wine Festival (Fêtes Henri IV) when Champagne flows through the village (next in July 2016) – sample the wine and food at the many Champagne houses which will be open on these two festival days.
On the Saturday evening there is a grand firework display with musical accompaniment, whilst on the Sunday afternoon the Ay carnival processes through the streets. (more info)
Champagne may be made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Chardonnay grapes. It is called Blanc de Blancs when made exclusively from white grapes – i.e. Chardonnay. – although Chardonnay is not predominent in Ay. You pay more for vintage Champagne which is often the base for very special cuvées, but most Champagne is NV (Non-Vintage).