Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine from Champagne, France
#77 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2011
Pale gold in color with a fine mousse, the wine is aromatic on the nose. On the palate, it is well balanced and shows great finesse and complexity.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the best grand- and premier crus bring vinosity and delicacy together in a very harmoniously balanced blend. The complement of Pinot Meunier adds a charming touch of fruitiness and liveliness.
Delicious as an aperitif, Brut Majeur is also the perfect wine to serve throughout a meal. It will pair perfectly with sea food, scallops, lobster, crab, fresh or grilled fish, fish terrines, salmon or beef carpaccio, as well as with sushi and Asian cuisine.
Wine Spectator - "There's a firm, chalky edge to this minerally Champagne, and mouthwatering flavors of candied lemon peel, green apple, crystallized honey and biscuit. This has an elegant texture and an overall sense of style. Drink now through 2020."
Wine Enthusiast - "Ayala, based in Aÿ in the heart of Champagne, has been transformed since Bollinger bought it in 2005 and this nonvintage proves it. This is a balanced blend of 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. The result is crisp while not too dry, and therefore drinkable as an apéritif. Apple and bright citrus combine with green plums to give a fruity wine that is also structured. The cellarmaster continues to reduce the dosage (sugar) so there is a crisp, tight aftertaste."
International Wine Cellar - "Light yellow. Aromas of fresh citrus fruits, chamomile and smoky minerals, with a subtle hint of white pepper. Fleshy and smooth on entry, then tighter in the middle, offering juicy blood orange and buttered toast flavors and a touch of bitter cherry pit. Closes on a spicy note, with good mineral cut and lingering spiciness. Pretty tight for an entry-level Champagne; I wouldn't be surprised if this one rewarded some cellaring."
Wine & Spirits - "Luscious ripeness lends this wine a quince-like flavor, feeling round and generous against the chalky briskness of Champagne. For all its fruitiness, this is dry, firm and grounded, a clean aperitif or a first-course wine for a rabbit terrine."
Decanter - "Broad, expressive nose - lots of yeastiness on display, plus spice, floral and some toffee and caramel notes. The palate is clean and precise, showing elegant fruit characters and some burnt biscuit flavors too. Classic Champagne style, very conventional but decent complexity. "
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Champagne Ayala Winery
Colombian by birth, in 1850 Edmond(o) de AYALA settled in the Champagne region - in the Château d'Aÿ to be exact. The château was the property of the Viscount of Mareuil, who soon taught Edmond the subtleties of the champagne business. In due time, Edmond married the Viscount's niece, whose fabulous dowry included both the Château d'Aÿ and the superb vineyard around it. All the conditions were in place for the creation of a Champagne House. Thus Champagne AYALA from the Château d'Aÿ came to be. Its notoriety spread fast, and quickly reached the shores of England.
When Edmond died, his three sons took over the business. In 1911 they suffered the "Vinegrowers Rebellion" - a revolt against the practices of certain unscrupulous Houses, who brought in grapes from outside of the region to be vinified and sold as "champagne". Even though Ayala was not on the blacklist (being totally innocent), it and the other Houses on the Boulevard du Nord in Aÿ were burned to ground by the angry mobs because there were no troops to defend them. The House was completely rebuilt and functioning by 1913. A public liability company was formed in 1922 that still exists today under the name "Champagne AYALA, Société Anonyme". Unabled to cope with the global economic crisis of the 1930s, then House was sold to an English bank before being bought by a Champagne vineyard owner: René CHAYOUX.
René CHAYOUX so trusted and respected Jean-Michel DUCELLIER, his partner since 1948, that he appointed DUCELLIER as his successor at the head of his businesses and estate. An estate that was made all the more impressive by the acquisition in 1961 of the illustrious Château LA LAGUNE, a Médoc Classified Third Growth in Bordeaux's Haut-Médoc region. Since 1968, Jean-Michel has with both affection and intelligence cared for the fortunes of Champagne AYALA and Château LA LAGUNE. The House of AYALA, a family business, is one of the few to have remained independent. Jean-Michel and his son Alain DUCELLIER who is today at the head of the company, both run it with energy and enthusiasm. They devote themselves to the status of the House's name worldwide, and they proudly receive their clients at their superb Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. View all Champagne Ayala Wines
About ChampagneChampagne is both a region and a method. The wines come from the northernmost vineyards in France and the name conjures an image like no other can. An 18th Century Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon is said to be the first to blend both varietals and vintages, making good wines not only great, but also special and unique to their winemaker. Today, nearly 75% of Champagne produced is non-vintage and made up by a blend of several years' harvests.
All Champagnes must be made by a strictly controlled process called "Méthode Champenoise." The grapes are pressed and fermented for the first time. The blending phase follows and the wine is bottled and temporarily capped. Then comes the second fermentation, a blend of sugar and yeast is added and, this time, the carbon dioxide is kept inside the bottle. This process leaves a great deal of sediment that is extracted through a process of "racking" or "riddling." The bottles are progressively turned upside down until all the sediment is collected in the neck. The necks are then frozen and the sediment is "disgorged." After this phase, the winemaker may decide to add sugar to sweeten the wine. Finally the wine is corked. Some wines move through this process in a couple of months, while others are aged after the riddling phase to build greater complexity and depth.
Champagnes range from dry, "Brut," to slightly sweet, "Demi-Sec." Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are used in Champagne blends, but "Blancs de Noirs" is made entirely of Pinot Noir and "Blancs de Blanc" is made from only Chardonnay grapes. The high acidity achieved by the northern location is crucial to the balance and structure of these wines.
Not every year is a "vintage" declared. In years when it is not, the wines are blended with the produce from other years to create the non-vintage blend, the house style that remains constant from year to year. But in a great vintage year, champagne houses will bottle by itself the unblended year's produce, and use other portions as "reserve" wines to supplement and enrich the non-vintage blend. A vintage champagne can age quite gracefully, and gain complexity just like any other great still wine.
Mild cheeses like gruyere and shellfish pair nicely with Champagne. Also, oysters and Champagne is a popular combination. A full-flavored vintage Champagne can go with almost any meal.
About France - Other regionsWhen it comes to wine, France is a classic. Classic blends, grapes and styles began in the country and they still remain. Think about it - people ask for a Burgundian style Pinot Noir, they refer to wines as Bordeaux or Rhone blends - Champagne even had to pass a law to stop international wineries from putting their region on the label of all sparkling wine.
The top regions of France are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Rhone. And these regions are so diverse! It makes sense that wine regions throughout the world try to emulate their style. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are no longer French varieties, but international varieties. They may not be the leader of cutting edge technology or value-priced wines, but there is no doubt that they are still producing wines of great quality and diversity.
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Alcohol By Volume GuideMost wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
- Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
- Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
- Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.
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