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Interview: Hadrien Mouflard for Maison Ayala

AYALA is synonymous with fine champagne. Consumed and collected by discerning individuals the world over. We sit down with Hadrien Mouflard, Head of Maison Ayala to discuss everything champagne.

Having celebrated the Maison AYALA’s 150th anniversary a few years ago, what would you say makes AYALA Champagne unique? How do you manage heritage and modernity? 

We celebrated our 150th anniversary in 2010, Champagne AYALA having been founded in 1860, is over 155 years old! Our House is one of the oldest still in activity today: we were one of the original founding members of the Syndicat des Grandes Marques, the ancestor of today’s Union des Maisons de Champagnes and in that sense, we belong to the 20 or so Houses that really helped to forge Champagne as we know it today.

Back in the 1920’s, Champagne AYALA was truly one of the leading Houses in the region, producing over 1 million bottles a year, when Champagne did not even weigh 10% of its current production. Since the Bollinger family bought Champagne AYALA in 2005, a wind of change has been blowing on the House and we can now proudly say that we have a talented, young team in place, bringing a contemporary spirit to a historical House of Champagne.

 

How important is London, the UK and the royals in the history of the Maison AYALA? 

Right from the very beginning, London and the UK have played a key role for Ayala. Fernand de Ayala, brother of House founder Edmond de Ayala, settled in London in 1863 and became very close to the British aristocracy and royalty, gaining the friendship of the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII. He introduced him to our famous 1865 vintage, which was very dry for the time, and he became a great follower of Ayala. He even rewarded us with a Royal Warrant, which we held for the first half of the XXth century, until 1952. The House also had the great honour of welcoming Queen Mum, HRH Elizabeth II’s mother, in 1983.

Today, the UK remains our biggest export market, with almost 25% of our sales, thanks to very special partnerships, like the one we have with world-famous chef Gordon Ramsay, who selected our Brut Majeur as the House pour in every single one of his restaurants in the UK, from the more accessible ones all the way to his 3-Michelin star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London.

How important is it to keep AYALA Champagne family-owned, especially versus the emergence of large groups in the champagne world? 

Champagne AYALA has always belonged to small, independent and family-owned structures: it really is part of who we are. This independence allows us to keep quality as our main focus, which is a key component of how we want Ayala to evolve in the coming years, as we believe it will always be an important differentiating factor in an ever more competitive business. Being independent means being able to make decisions that put quality first.

Besides Champagne, what are your passions and how are they reflected in the Maison AYALA’s art de vivre? 

One passion often leads to another and it is probably not a great surprise for you to learn that I am also passionate about cooking and gastronomy. I think this passion is really reflected at Champagne AYALA with the great care that we put in looking for and sourcing the best “ingredients” possible to craft our wines, as much as the continuous quest for the perfect balance. It goes without saying that I feel Champagne is a great companion for food and wine matches, something that we really care about here at AYALA and that our guests are able to experience when they share a meal with us at the estate.

 

What is champagne to you? (A drink for celebration, a personal moment …?) 

Champagne is first and foremost a drink for special moments. It is a great companion for all the great milestones in life, a true and unique marker for pleasure. That being said, opening a great bottle of champagne can also become a special occasion per se and this is also what makes this product so special.

Tell us about your Chef de Cave/Cellar Master Ms. Caroline Latrive? What mission and objectives drive her? 

Caroline was born and raised here in Champagne and her father was himself a great oenologist. She joined our team in 2007 and has not stopped to amaze us with her great skills since. It is a very challenging mission to respect the style of a historical House like Ayala and she managed to do so brilliantly since her beginnings, but also succeeded in bringing her personal touch to our blends, for example by using a lot of Chardonnay, a grape variety she especially loves. Her main mission is to help Champagne AYALA to keep on growing in quality, by refining the style of our wines and expressing the best Champagne has to offer.

What type of audience do you target in Asia? Any specific products (Millesime, Serie Limitee) being driven to the Asian clientele? 

Asia as a whole is hard to generalise, because a lot of markets have different approaches to Champagne. For example, China remains a rather small market, where Champagne as a whole sells less than 2 million bottles, whereas Japan does more than 5 times more. For a brand like Ayala, we try to target those more mature markets, able to more easily appreciate the refinement of a smaller, boutique-style House. The recent launch of our limited edition Rosé No.8 should hopefully have success on markets worldwide, including in Asia!

How is the 2015 harvest looking like? 

Our first impressions of a very highly qualitative vintage were confirmed by the recent tasting of the vins clairs. We had a very hot growing season and most of the region featured great ripeness, without losing too much acidity. The grapes were harvested in a great sanitary state, with very little if any diseases reported. The juices were very expressive from an early stage on and we can expect great blends to come out of 2015, along with some vintage wines.

Your most personal memory working for the Maison AYALA? 

I will always remember my very first day at AYALA, when I visited the beautiful, historic cellars and discovered the fantastic heritage that the House had. I felt right from the start that very powerful fundamentals were present to help relaunch that Sleeping Beauty of Champagne. From the very beginning, I had the feeling that it would be a very exciting adventure to form a new team and work closely on building a new communication and commercial strategy for the brand.

Another great memory I have took place during a visit to Boston in the US where a sales representative meeting me for the first time brought a bottle of 1959 AYALA that he had found in his family cellar to share it with me, to celebrate the fact that “Ayala was back” as he said! The wine was fabulous and proved to me once again that the great heritage and history of this Champagne House really deserved to be rediscovered by wine lovers all over the world.

This article was first published in Palace magazine.

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History

Champagne AYALA is one of the longest-established champagne Houses; it has been based in Aÿ, at the heart of the great champagne vineyards, since it was founded over 150 years ago. Independent and family-owned, it is still today the archetype of a great and historic House, producing top quality wines which are enjoyed throughout the world for their freshness and elegance.      

 

Edmond de Ayala, founder of the House in 1860, came from a family that had always aspired to go one step further. His ancestors bequeathed him with a sense of excellence and a taste for adventure that drove him to settle in Aÿ in order to learn about winemaking. From the very beginning, the House quickly became a reference both in France and overseas. As a young champagne House, Champagne AYALA owed its rapid expansion in large part to Fernand de Ayala, Edmond’s younger brother, who in 1863 settled in London where he mixed with British aristocracy and introduced the House’s unique flavour profile to British connoisseurs, notably with the 1865 vintage that had a very low dosage for the time. During the same period, the House was one of the founding member of the Syndicat des Grandes Marques in 1882 and also contributed to the creation of London’s Benevolent Trust in 1886.           

 

The 1920s were a remarkable golden age during which Champagne AYALA produced over a million bottles each year, ranking the House amongst the top brands in Champagne at the moment. Champagne AYALA was also official supplier to the royal courts of England and Spain and hired over 100 workers. The grandeur of that period is also exemplified by the rich iconography that the House inspired: the numerous advertising posters and artistic drawings from the era are the best testimonies of that splendor.           

 

Champagne AYALA has always been a small, independent and family-run business. After the Second World War the House went through a rather quiet period as its leaders occupied important positions in Champagne trade associations. In 2005 the Bollinger family bought this fine estate, with the intention of restoring it to its former glory. This was the start of a resurgence for Champagne AYALA, with complete restoration of winemaking facilities and the arrival of new staff. The House employs today about 15 people, keeping the family spirit of its origins.                

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Winemaking

Every stage of winemaking is carried out on location, from vinification to shipping, not to mention ageing, riddling, disgorgement, labeling and conditioning. The 2 kilometres of caves are home to almost 2,5 million bottles, slowly maturing in the centuries-old cellars dug out of Aÿ’s chalky hillsides.           

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12 different wines with 33 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  40 wines 

The hard work of assessing hundreds of champagnes for The 100 Best Champagnes 2021 has started! First tasting session behind. Great champagnes with very consistent quality.

1m 13d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  40 wines 

Champagne Magazine's The 100 Best Champagnes 2021 Day 1 -


6 more days to go.

1m 18d ago

 Ayala  has news

Interview: Hadrien Mouflard for Maison Ayala AYALA is synonymous with fine champagne. Consumed an  more ...

1y 8m ago

 Richard Juhlin , Wine Writer (Sweden)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  33 wines 

Salon 1945 / 95 points / I hardly dare to imagine what a bottle like this might be worth. It was a bit scary when we pulled the cork and the mousse seemed to be absent. When we poured the wine we saw a little shower of minute bubbles that later returned as gorgeous stimulation on the tongue. The aroma is older than the flavour. In it there is fallen fruit, tar, rancid butter and leather. Luckily this wine has such authority and strength that its lovely ethereal aspects outweigh the destructive powers of time. The shockwave of marmelade-like fruitiness and laughably distinct walnut make us happy again. Phenomenally long.

1y 10m ago

 Mélanie Laurent / Sommelier, Pro (France)  tasted  2 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  10 wines 

The Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne 2014 surprises with its intense garnet color, alive and beautiful. As it ages, it will slowly fade in intensity and gain subtle orange-brick hues. The scent, broad and persistent, first shows fruit notes of wild strawberry and raspberry, then floral notes including wild flowers and dried roses. The spice aromas of cinnamon and star anise emerge at the finish. With time we expect secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors to evolve, such as elegant vanilla notes and then dried mushrooms, leather, tar and, perhaps, truffles. The flavor is rich and intense, with youthful expressiveness in the tannin and acidity. Time will bring greater harmony, resulting in a more complex and balanced wine. It is a young, solid and promising Barolo, borne of an ancient process which combines knowledge of the territory with the ability of the various characters of each vineyard site to meld into a harmonious whole.

1y 11m ago

 Essi Avellan MW , Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  34 wines 

The 100 Best Champagnes 2017 - tasting day II - 40 Blanc de Blancs!

3y 1m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  37 wines 

Champagne Magazines annual the Best 100 Champagnes 2017 tasting - Day 4 with new vintages from Dom Pérignon, Cuvée Winston Churchill, Armand de Brignac, Charles Heidsieck etc.

3y 1m ago

 Tuula Hällström, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  13 wines 

Some higlights from yesterdays Champagne tasting: Dom Perignon 2009, Palmer 2009, Winston Churchill 2006 etc.

3y 1m ago

 Richard Juhlin , Wine Writer (Sweden)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  29 wines 

Many prestige champagnes debuted in 1959 vintage, for example, Dom Ruinart and Pol Roger Blanc de Chardonnay. A large harvest of champagnes, that often ended up above 13 percent alcohol because of the extremely hot summer. The wines have proven to be very sustainable, despite the low acid. Power and concentration are great regardless if the wines are dominated by Chardonnay or pinot noir. A wonderful champagne year in its style!

3y 6m ago

 Luciano Cesare, Wine Dealer (Italy)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Dom Ruinart 1982 / Good looking normal size bottle, in an excellent condition with 2 cm level ullage below the cork. Colour is straw, and looking bright, healthy and medium. On the nose it is intense, fresh, seductive and round. The taste is fresh, rich, fruity, medium-bodied, with balanced, complex, concentrated structure and youthful. The finish is medium long, round, gentle and vibrant. This wine is sophisticated and fine. Perfectly stored bottles are still very worthy and will last well for another 10-15 years and decant at least 15min before tasting. Good value for money.

3y 9m ago

 Essi Avellan MW , Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999 / Medium-deep lemon yellow colour. Complex and smooth nose of tropical fruits, cosmetics, pastry and floral notes. Intense and firm palate. Still slightly closed requiring time. Long and structured.

3y 11m ago

 Richard Juhlin , Wine Writer (Sweden)  tasted  1 wines  from  Ayala . In a tasting of  77 wines 

“The best Champagnes from 2002 vintage: As in Bourgogne, this is a beautiful and generous vintage with a bright future in store. It
is the rst time that I start to feel a tad old in the game. Because I have tried the vintage before in my life! Yes, the 2002 is so strikingly similar to the 1982 that I think I can predict the vintage’s whole life curve. I believe in a very linear curve without ups and downs. The wine will eventually become more buttery and fatter, with a relatively high acidity, and it will do its job in silence. The wines will reach their top at twenty to thirty years of age. Most promising
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4y 5m ago

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