Why is this Wine so Yummy?
This is 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay from 40-year-old vines in Ambonnay, aged completely in barrel, with no malo and virtually no dosage. It is a seductive, layered, yet powerful expression of Ambonnay and, with the Blanc de Noirs, represents one of the very finest wines of the Montagne de Reims Grand Cru area.
“Few producers can equal Francis Egly in skill and experience, and larger houses cannot hope to emulate the cultivation norms…” Michel Bettane, The World’s Greatest Wines.
“What Larmandier-Bernier achieves with Chardonnay, so Egly-Ouriet manages for Pinot Noir: wines of riveting purity and concentration.” Andrew Jefford, The New France
“Egly-Ouriet is one of the reference-point growers in Champagne, with a deep selection of wines that offer remarkable transparency to site, vintage and variety … These are among the most pure, unmanipulated Champagnes readers will come across, and the estate’s new releases are all highly recommended.” Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate
Egly-Ouriet – pronounced pretty much as it reads: egg-lee oo-ree-ay – along with Selosse and Larmandier-Bernier, make up the holy trinity of great grower Champagnes. They are some of only a handful of growers who follow biodynamic, organic or ‘living soil’ principals of viticulture. These three producers do not use chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides or chemical anti-fungal sprays; they work on very low yields (roughly half the regional average); produce vineyard or village specific wines; minimise the use of sugar addition and follow a very natural winemaking regime with no fining or filtration and low levels of sulphur. All these factors combined – in particular, the belief in ‘site-specific’ wines – is offering a wonderful challenge to the traditional Champagne methodology of high yields, high dosage and blending across many communes to achieve a house style. In many ways, the Egly-Ouriet Domaine has been at the forefront of this movement. For example, the Egly family was one of the very few growers in Champagne who always refused to use gadoux (ground city rubbish) as fertiliser on their precious vineyards. The brilliant Egly vineyards (Grand Cru & Pinot Noir dominant), the natural viticulture and low yields and the high percentage of reserve wine used, are the main reasons why the Egly-Ouriet wines taste so different – so fruit-pure, intense, rich and complex.
Run by Francis Egly, this producer has become a cult Champagne for devotees around the world. This is the reward for very hard work in the vineyards and meticulous attention to detail. Egly-Ouriet is in Ambonnay, with vineyards also in Bouzy and Verzenay. They also own a remarkable plot of old vine Pinot Meunier at Vrigny, which is vinified separately. Apart from Vrigny, these are all 100 per cent Grand Cru, Pinot Noir areas. As such, the wines are Pinot dominant, rich and powerful with deep colours, hedonistic aromas and explosive, layered personalities in the mouth. If you have never tasted the wines of this producer, be prepared for wines that have nothing to do with traditional Champagne styles. Egly-Ouriet is also famous – at least in France – for their Ambonnay Rouge, a 100 per cent Pinot Noir dry red.
Egly-Ouriet is one of Robert Parker’s 13 top ‘five-star’ Champagne houses, along with Krug, Bollinger, Salon and other mostly well-known names. Like Larmandier-Bernier and Selosse, Egly-Ouriet has been rated as one of Champagne’s top five producers by Andrew Jefford in his celebrated work, The New France, [Mitchell Beazley].
The top end of the Champagne spectrum is often perceived (due to a lot of marketing) to be the Super Cuvées like Dom Perignon and Krug. Don’t get me wrong these are great wines. The thing is when you get the chance and taste the top wines from Grower Champagne houses like Egly-Ouriet you find yourself taking things to an all-new level. Their vineyards are immaculate, the fruit comes in with so much intensity you could happily drink the finished wines after they’ve gone flat.
I don’t know who coined the term “Grower Champagne”, when you see it, make sure you take a second look before you move on. Champagne producers are split into three groups:
- Houses that make over-cropped boring fizz, battery acid with bubbles and a bit of alcohol.
- Bigger houses that are pushing hard to make yummy wine, own some of their vineyards, buy a lot of grapes and have some exceptional super cuvées (top wines – think Dom Pérignon).
- Grower producers that grow 100% of their grapes themselves and make wines that have bags of personality.
Egly-Ouriet sits comfortably in the Grower group. Doing all the little 1 percenters in the vineyard and winery that make the difference between a drink and a pleasure fest!
Visit the vineyards and you’ll see horse-drawn ploughs and during the pruning and harvesting seasons the same faces year after year. That kind of continuity just makes for deep knowledge and empathy for the vineyards that = great wine.
In the winery the effort goes in with use of old oak barrels and foudré, large format barrels reaching into the 1000’s of litres each. Lees stirring, re-suspending yeast from fermentation that has settled to the bottom of the barrel to add extra creaminess and complexity. Use of carefully crafted reserve wines in the blends. Reserve wines are older wines that are a blend of several different years, often stored in foudré. Their use imparts complexity and a generosity that you wouldn’t see in the wine until it had been aged for much longer in bottle were it not for their use.
Maturing the base wines before tirage, second fermentation in bottle, again contributing to complexity, harmony, and, helping tame the incredible intensity of fruit these growers generate in the vineyard.
All of these things only have a positive impact when the fruit is of quality, has the depth to handle oxygen contact, and be improved by it rather than fall apart.
Combined the effort in the vineyard and winery result in layered, complex, yummy wine, with bags of personality.
Where in Champagne does Egly-Ouriet Come From?
Based in Ambonnay, Eglly-Ouriet has vineyard Grand Cru holdings in the famed Pinot Noir growing areas of Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzeny. Add a parcel of Pinot Mugnier in Vrigny.
The map below shows the main sub-regions of Champagne
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From left to right Champagne vineyards by Soil Type, Aspect and Dominant Varietal
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