Only five per cent of the Chef de Caves in Champagne are women and Caroline Latrive of Champagne AYALA is one. Wanting to do something about this disparity, she partnered with SquareMeal to support the Female Chef Of The Year Award, a similar industry where male chefs outnumber women at a rate of over four to one in the UK.
Despite growing up in Champagne and aiding her father in his own wine work, even he was “a little surprised” when Latrive went into winemaking. “It was challenging when I started,” she says, “but things are changing. There are more and more female cellarmasters in Champagne”. She is thrilled to be able to help promote the talent and success of women across the hospitality industry.
Sally Abé of The Pem won the award, which was greeted with raucous cheers from her 30 fellow nominees, including Ruth Rogers of The River Café, Rachel Humphrey of Le Gavroche and Angela Hartnett of Murano, and the evening was toasted with the launch of AYALA’s Blanc de Blancs 2014, the first vintage to be released in magnum bottles.
Despite its unusual, almost musical name, AYALA is an historic champagne house, with a rich history dating back to 1860. It was one of the original 26 Grand Marques, was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1908 and was fashionable among the bright young things of the 1920s. Now acquired by the Bollinger family, the house style is focused on precision and refinement, with dosages so low as to be almost Brut Nature in its dryness.
Latrive vinifies her wines from a remarkable 120 stainless steel vats to best express her true love, “the elegance and purity of chardonnay”. The 2014 “is an incredible wine, an emblematic wine. I make this style specially and exclusively in exceptional years but I express the House style over the vintage. This is the Blanc de Blancs expression of AYALA”. Silky, with a clear precise minerality and notes of citrus, white flowers and subtle white fruit and, fundamentally, aged for double the legal minimum required by Champagne’s laws.
When asked if she would ever work somewhere less “traditional” in its outlook Latrive scoffs “Never! I am Champenoise!” and besides, the tide is turning for women in hospitality and wine.
The AYALA SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year Award was launched to recognise the woman who are trailblazing the way in hospitality, making a name for themselves within the industry, while acting as positive role models for young girls considering a career in this arena.
Wines of the week
Domaine Gassier Grenache de Bek 2016, £43.96, winebuyers.com
From old vines in the Costières de Nîmes this lightly sumptuous red is made only in exceptional years. Fresh red fruits and an aromatic complexity of roses, liquorice, soft spices and mineral notes.
Giant Steps, Yarra Valley, Chardonnay, 2020, £25.50, Noble Green Wines
With COP26 and wine sustainability on everyone’s lips try this delicious wine by one of the founding wineries of The International Wineries for Climate Action.
Roebuck Estates Blanc de Noirs 2015, £44.99, Grape Brittania
Another excellent English Sparkling wine with a creamy richness of honey-baked red apples and toasty almond brioche lifted by light honeysuckle and citrus notes and a pinch of spice to keep it feeling Christmassy.
M Chapoutier Luberon La Ciboise Rouge 2019, £9.77, The Drinks Shop
Offering exceptional value this Grenache and Syrah blend is bursting with fresh blackcurrants, blackberries and plums with a pinch of baking spice and black pepper to keep you warm this Autumn.
Journey’s End Sir Lowry Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, £14.99, Waitrose
An elegant beast for the table, this wine is all smoky spice and earthy goodness underpinned by deep dark fruit and well structured tannins. Committed to sustainability they recently won Ethical Drinks Company of the Year 2020.