Ayala is back. in many ways, though, this 148-year-old Champagne never really left — at least not for those who remembered it fondly. For the last decade, while it continued to be available throughout Europe, it was not imported into the United States. Then, in 2005, the venerable Champagne house of Bollinger, itself 179 years old, bought it. And once again American consumers may enjoy Ayala.
Ayala sprang from the marriage of Edmond de Ayala to the Viscount of Mareuil’s niece in 1860. For the dowry, the viscount gave them Château Ay and prime vineyards. Soon after, the Champagne house of Ayala was born.
This fresh introduction brings a wide selection of Ayala Champagnes to the United States. To begin, try the Brut Majeur ($40), a traditional, non-vintage Champagne blend of 45 percent Pinot Noir, 35 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Pinot Meunier. Fine and fruity, this lovely wine sparkles with especially lively bubbles.
The vintaged Ayala Millesimé 1999 ($60) — 80 percent Pinot Noir, 20 percent Chardonnay, all Grand Cru — is opulent, creamy, rich and powerful with a flavor that lingers long after the last sip.
Ayala also produces the rare and beautiful Zéro dosage ($45) that, unlike virtually all other Champagnes, has no added sweetness, or dosage. The incredible clarity of the wine enhances the clean, crisp citrus notes on the tongue. Yet, despite the lack of sweetness, it shows a surprising touch of richness.
Blanc de Blancs 2000 ($65), made totally from Grand Cru Chardonnay, personifies elegance with a hint of floral perfume, a finesse and balance. In all, a splendid Champagne.
Especially impressive is the house’s prestige Champagne, Cuvée Perle d’Ayala 2001 ($120). A blend of 80 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Pinot Noir Grand Cru grapes and aged six years on the lees, it displays a rich texture and deep and complex aromas. A truly noble Champagne.
Not many of us receive a château and vineyards for a wedding gift. And not many can afford to give such a gift. But we’ll never go wrong sending a bride and groom a bottle or two of Ayala.
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