A Champagne Too Many

5th April 2016

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If you’ve been to Ay this year you may have noticed that it is now named Ay-Champagne. Will it though keep this name for much longer?

The French government decided to create even larger regions. Champagne-Ardenne has been joined with Alsace-Lorraine. The favourite for its name which will be chosen at the end of April is Grand Est.

Ay, Mereuil-sur-Ay and Bisseul lie between the vineyards and the river Marne not too far from Epernay. The mayors of the three communes decided to unite them into one single commune for financial reasons. They were able to do this thanks to a law passed in 2010. A new name was chosen, Ay-Champagne, as Ay is the largest of the three communes.

The CIVC, champagne’s regulatory body, keeps a close eye on the use of the word Champagne worldwide. They consider overuse will make the word generic. When the body spots what they consider an abuse legal battles ensue. They have been fought over products as diverse as perfume, wine and biscuits. The Swiss wine-making municipality of Champagne has felt the judicial weight of the CIVC on more than one occasion much to its disadvantage.

After Epernay Pay de Champagne and Chalons-en-Champagne the CIVC consider Ay-Champagne a Champagne too many. A local newspaper reports that there was a supposed agreement between Ay and the CIVC when they were using the word Champagne unofficially. Surely a grand cru village home to prestigious houses such as Bollinger deserves to use the word Champagne.

The CIVC has recently started legal action against the French state that originally gave permission to use the name Ay-Champagne. They want the annulation of the new name. What will happen? Watch this space.

Jon Catt

Tour guide for the Champagne region who lives in Troyes. Specialising in family run Champagne house visits in the Aube and the Marne plus wine tours in the Yonne and Côte d'Or.