UMC - Grandes Marques et Maisons de Champagne

Home > Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ

Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ

The Château de Mareuil dates back to 18th Century French nobleman Thomas de Domangeville who had it built as a home befitting his young bride. In the mid 19th Century the chateau passed into the hands of Edmond de Ayala, founder of the House of Ayala that retained ownership until the 1930s.

Construction of the chateau was completed in 1765 under the supervision of French architects Chevotet and Chaussard. The basic design replicated the Louis Quinze style of the Château Louis XIII in Pange, recalling Thomas de Domangeville’s much-loved childhood home, but also featured a red brick effect. When Domangeville and his wife died in 1774 within just two months of each other, the chateau remained home to their three children, who entertained a great many friends there. Among them was the French poet and bard of Champagne, André Chenier.

In 1788 a family dispute led to the chateau being put for sale. Its next owner was the Duke of Orléans, known as Philippe Egalité, who was sent to the guillotine in 1793.

There followed a succession of owners until 1830 when the chateau, complete with some 100 hectares of Champagne vineyards, was acquired by the sons of French General and Marshal of the First Empire, Jean Lannes 1st Duke of Montebello. The Chateau of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ then became home to the Marshal’s eldest son, Napoléon-Auguste Lannes, 2nd Duke of Montebello, who went into partnership with his two brothers, Gustave, a general under Bonaparte’s command, and Alfred 1st Count of Montebello. Four years later in 1834 they founded the Alfred de Montebello Champagne House and succeeded in making a go of the vineyard despite repeated financial crises and wars. They themselves meanwhile became a target for savage caricature in the French satirical magazine Charivari particularly by abrasive political cartoonist Honoré Daumier.

Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 the estate was then sold to a young buyer from Rheims, René Chayoux, who would later be chosen by his colleagues to chair the Union des Maisons de Champagne throughout the dificult years of World War II. In this capacity he went on to create the Comité Champagne (CIVC), which remains the principal forum for discussion by Winegrowers and Champagne Houses of all matters relating to the steering of the Champagne AOC. René Chayoux died without issue but left a will appointing his close associate and personal confidant, Jean-Michel Ducellier, as his sole heir. The announcement was warmly welcomed by Growers and Champagne Houses alike who held Ducellier in the highest esteem, and continued to do so throughout his 20-year tenure as chairman of the Union des Maisons de Champagne and co-president of the CIVC. In the course of that time, Champagne policy-making by Growers and Champagne Houses would be conducted in the privileged setting of the Château de Mareuil.
Jean-Michel Ducellier’s heirs then transferred the property to the Frey family, also from Champagne, with real-estate entrepreneur (Jean-Jacques Frey) in the driving seat. Safe in his hands, the Château de Mareuil is now a protected national heritage site.