In the village of Aÿ, the ventilation shafts rising up from among the vines point to the presence of cellars dug out below the hillside. As they protrude into the air, the shafts are a sign of the “verticality” that characterises the cultural landscape of the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars.
The chalky substrate underlying Aÿ has enabled cellars to be dug out under the hillside, extending out from the buildings located at the upper end of the village. Mirroring the more extensive cellars in Épernay, they comprise either one or two horizontal levels, based on a grid plan, with the main galleries facing the mountains (south-north), linked by three or four transverse galleries.
Several networks of large cellars have ventilation shafts at the junction between the main and transverse galleries. The shape and size of these shafts give them a very different appearance to those of the crayères, the ancient chalk quarries below Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims. These shafts were not the starting point for construction of the cellars - as was the case for the Reims quarries - but rather serve as actual ventilation shafts. This points to the presence of cellars in the area and confirms the high density of underground Champagne production facilities.
Ventilation shafts became necessary when cellars were dug deep down into the ground and can be identified by the presence of chimneys built above ground. Their red brick ducts rise up amidst the vines.
Tourism Office Hautvillers
Place de la République – 51160 Hautvillers
+33 (0)3 26 57 06 35