Caroline Latrive

Caroline Latrive

Champagne Ayala (chef de cave)

Caroline Latrive is the chef de cave of Ayala, located in Ay. Established in 1860 by Edmond de Ayala, and later purchased by the Bollinger group in 2005, it is among the historic houses in Champagne. Caroline was appointed Ayala’s chef de cave in 2011. She took over from Nicolas Klym who had been the chef de cave for over 25 years.

Caroline, who is from Reims, always wanted to work with wine but never dreamed she would be a chef de cave! Her father was an enologist and had his own lab, and her grandfather was a wine grape grower and later president of a wine growers association. Her passion for champagne comes from her childhood and experiences with her family. She has vivid memories of the smell of grapes being crushed, for example, and her father asking her to describe what she smelled and tasted. “In this way, my father gave me the key to my future.”

However, as she noted, “Twenty-five years ago it was not so simple for a woman at 16 or 18 years old to be confident in this field.” Reflecting this, in 1987 when she was studying enology in Reims, there were only five women in her class of 23. Upon finishing her studies, she completed an informative internship at a cooperative, and Blanc de Blancs became imprinted on her. Her first job was at Champagne Bollinger, but after only four months there, she opted to join her father at his lab, giving advice to growers. She loved the diversity of the work.

Her career path shifted significantly four years later when her father decided to sell his lab, leading Caroline to return to school to get her ISO Quality Control Certificate. (It was during this time period that her two children were born.) After obtaining her certificate, Caroline returned to Champagne Bollinger for a two-month internship that led to a position in quality management. When Champagne Bollinger purchased Ayala in 2005, she was asked to oversee quality management there. In 2007, she was appointed Ayala’s assistant cellar master, and its chef de cave in 2011.

Caroline does not understand why there are so few women named as chef de cave, but she is hopeful that the culture is changing. She thinks the style at Ayala is more open-minded than most large champagne houses and that its team is younger. She sees more women involved in vinification and is encouraged by groups such as Les Fa’Bulleuses.

Her advice: be yourself, do the job with conviction, do a good job.

The Wines. As chef de cave, Caroline is the keeper of the Ayala’s style—“Freshness, elegance, and low dosage.” Low dosage remains part of the winery’s philosophy together with the important role of Chardonnay in the blends. As a result, Ayala’s champagnes are popular for their precision, delicacy, freshness, and elegance. We regret that we did not have time to do a tasting, but we do know the bottle of Ayala Brut Majeur we were gifted and enjoyed later was a model of elegance and delicacy.