Aÿ is one of just four French municipalities with the distinctive ÿ in its name (along with Faÿ-lès-Nemours, Moÿ-de-l'Aisne and L'Haÿ-les-Roses). However, this linguistic point of interest is not the district’s claim to fame. Boasting a prime location at the heart of the historic Champagne hillsides, Aÿ is both a key witness and player (so to speak) in Champagne’s history, both in the past and going forward into the future.
Located between the Marne-Rhine Canal and the historic hillsides (part of the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars included on UNESCO's World Heritage List), along with Reims and Épernay, Aÿ is one of the main historic Champagne production centres. With some 40% of the district covered by vines, the Champagne economy is of crucial importance.
On the hillsides overlooking the town, ventilation shafts resembling chimneys protrude between the vines, indicating the presence of cellars, often higher up the hillside than the Champagne Houses that own them, which are located lower down. This is why owners sometimes say they are “going up” to the cellar!
Aÿ has also played a key role in Champagne history since the village was the epicentre of the winegrowers’ revolt in 1911, with several Champagne Houses on Boulevard du Nord set on fire during the resulting disturbances.
The area has also played and continues to play an important role in the development of the cooperative movement: established in 1929 at the corner of Rue Jeanson and Boulevard du Nord, is COGEVI (General Cooperative of Winegrowers). Founded in 1921, it is now the oldest operating Champagne cooperative and is an archetypal example of the evolution of wine cooperatives.
Still on Rue Jeanson, the Villa Bissinger is dedicated to Champagne wine awareness, and incorporates a human and social science research centre.
Finally, Le Pressoir, a Champagne Wines Sensory Interpretation Centre, is due to open soon on the former 19th century grape-pressing site built by the Pommery Champagne House
Mairie (Town Hall), place Henri-Martin, 51160 Aÿ-Champagne