If you ever find yourself in the small town of Ay (a short distance from Epernay), you might have trouble finding places to stay. In short, there are hardly any – certainly no hotels, with this champagne house the only possibility we could find in the town centre.
Ay is situated right in the middle of France’s champagne region, and is basically a collection of champagne producers, some small, some larger (Bollinger being the most well-known) with a couple of bars and a few shops – but that’s it. If you want a hotel, you have to look further away, but we needed to be in the centre. We were participating, with other members of our twinning association, in an international market and had transported a lot of our local products to sell there. Domaine Richard was therefore probably our only choice!
We arrived mid-afternoon to be told by the owner that our apartment wasn’t ready. However, to ease the wait, he invited us into his lounge to share a bottle of his own brand champagne! Very generous and hospitable – and the champagne wasn’t bad either! When we eventually unloaded our car, it was to our dismay to discover that the apartment was on the third floor of this huge building, with a climb of 62 steps to get to it – heavy suitcases not helping at all. There were two other apartments on the second floor, already occupied -unfortunately! The apartment itself was reasonable, however – clean, with enough equipment to be comfortable and plenty of space for the two of us. It was cold, however, with one of the radiators not working. We stayed 3 nights there, which was long enough.
On departure, we bought a case of champagne from our host to take home. We asked for the bottles we’d tasted on arriving, but he told us he’d run out and would give us his more expensive style instead. We thought that was a further nice gesture, until we got home and tasted it! It was certainly not as good as the one we’d had, which shows that it’s always best to “try before you buy”!
We felt we had little choice but to choose the Domaine Richard, and probably wouldn’t choose it again – unless we’re invited to a similar event in the future!