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Super Cuvées from Larmandier-Bernier and Egly-Ouriet come into Australia in tiny quantities. We’ve secured a few bottles. First in best dressed!

In 1998, I was mucking around with some barrels in the winery at Yering Station and Tom came down to ask a question. “Want to do vintage in Champagne?” Easy question to answer. The next week I landed in Paris, jumped in a hire car and headed for Champagne. You can read about the full experience here. To sum up, at the bottom end of the spectrum, fruit is sourced from over-cropped vineyards, made to a recipe, and, churned out as fast as technically possible. We’re talking battery acid with a little alcohol in it, and, always more sugar than you’d need if you had fruit of quality giving you flavour.

The top end of the 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 Larmandier-Bernier & 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:

  1. Houses that make over-cropped boring fizz, battery acid with bubbles and a bit of alcohol.
  2. 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).
  3. Grower producers that grow 100% of their grapes themselves and make wines that have bags of personality.

Larmandier-Bernier & Egly-Ouriet sit 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 detail is insane. Use of old oak barrels and foudré, large format barrels reaching into the 1000’s of litres each. Lees stiring, re-suspending yeast from fermentation that have 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.

We have on offer three of their standard wines, which are by no means standard, and, three of their Super Cuvées. These represent the Top 6 wines from a combined tasting of 14 of the Champagnes from these producers. Of which all I would happily devour, I’ve just been extra picky and selected the cream for you!

What struck me about all of these wines was their purity, vibrancy, power, that had been harnessed by all the hard work in the winery. The intrigue and high notes in these wines is something you rarely see. The all have exceptional length, depth and balance. They’re subtle, precise and delicious!

Your tongue will thank you!

*We only have a very small number of  bottles of the Super Cuvées. 1st come 1st served. All wines are available for immediate delivery

This offer has expired, wines are subject to availability. We'll do our best to satisfy your tastebuds.

Larmandier-Bernier & Egly-Ouriet

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About the Wines

LARMANDIER BERNIER LATITUDE EXTRA BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CHAMPAGNE (BASE 13. DISG. SEPT 2016)

Latitude is a 100% Côte des Blancs Chardonnay, predominantly grown, as it always has been, in vineyards on the southern side of Vertus. These are vineyards on roughly the same “Latitude”, and the name also hints at the breadth of texture that the wines from these clay rich soils tend to offer up, even when only Chardonnay is used. In the cuverie Larmandier uses a combination of neutral barrel, foudre (almost all the wood now comes from Stockinger in Austria) and less and less steel tank. The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations take place without inoculation, and there’s no fining or filtration. Bottle maturation takes place quietly over a period of more than 2 years, and each bottle is disgorged manually 6 months before being released and dosed with a very low 3-4 grams per litre (i.e., it is an extra brut). Immaculately crafted as ever, the most recent bottlings offer cut-diamond grace and precision, citrusy, chalky energy and a succulent, textured core. This stunning Blanc de Blancs is a blend of 60% 2013 and 40% reserve wines (from 2011 and 2012), disgorged in September 2016.

LARMANDIER BERNIER LONGITUDE EXTRA BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CHAMPAGNE (BASE 12. DISG. SEPT 2016)

Longitude the name here refers to the “vertical” nature of the geographic locations of the vineyards as well as capturing the more linear, mineral style of the finished wine. While Latitude is expansive across the palate, Longitude is all about linearity and raciness. This is again 100% Côte des Blancs Chardonnay, yet this time the vineyards are all north of the village of Vertus, where the topsoils are much thinner and the vines plunge straight into the chalky bedrock. To be specific, the vineyards are located in Cramant, Avize, Oger, and Vertus (north of the village). Connecting the dots between these communes forms a line close to the 4th meridian. Hence Longitude.

In the cuverie Larmandier uses a combination of neutral barrel, foudre (almost all the wood now comes from Stockinger in Austria) and less and less steel tank. The alcoholic and malolactic fermentations take place without inoculation, and there’s no fining or filtration. Bottle maturation takes place quietly over a period of more than 2 years, and each bottle is disgorged manually 6 months before being released and dosed with a very low 3-4 grams per litre (i.e., it is an extra brut). As you might expect, being also a Blanc de Blancs sourced from the same vineyards, this is very close in style to previous releases. Expect a vibrant, crystalline and remarkably refined Champagne, crackling with chalky energy and bright, citrus and nectarine fruit. Such purity and minerality could only come from the man that Laurent d’Harcourt, MD of Pol Roger, recently dubbed “The Ayatollah of quality” and his impeccably tended vineyards. As with the Latitude cuvee, Longitude is dosed with very low 3-4 grams per litre (extra brut).

2009 LARMANDIER BERNIER CHAMPAGNE LES CHEMINS D’AVIZE  GRAND CRU EXTRA BRUT

Larmandier’s newest cuvée, Les Chemins d’Avize, completes this avant-gardiste’s trio of single-terroir Champagnes (the other two being the Vieilles Vignes de Cramant & Terre de Vertus). Having been talking of the desire to complete their line of blanc de blancs mono-terroirs for many years, Pierre and Sophie finally, in 2009, bought a smaller press so that could separate the juice from their two Avize vineyards – Chemin de Plivot and Chemin de Flavigny. The winemaking follows similar lines to their other cuvées save for the use of smaller barrels (for the fermentations) necessitated by the small-batch nature of this blend. The wines are left on their natural lees for almost a year and there is no filtering or fining. The dosage is only 2 grams per litre. Put simply, this is a remarkable wine. You can see why the Larmandiers immediately elevated it to the top of their range. Characteristically, for a Larmandier Champagne, it is utterly pure, with blinding clarity, yet also succulent, racy and incredibly intense. Exquisitely sculpted and taut with a fabulous mineral drive, this is a Champagne of the very highest order. It makes most prestige cuvées look clumsy and, well, mass produced.

Paul’s notes: Disgorged in January 2014. This is a great age to drink such an exceptional Champagne. Having been disgorged for just over 3 years ago it has reached the first optimal drinking point. It’s just so together. A beautiful palate, rich, round full with incredible persistence. A lovely chalky acid great layering ad complexity. Rich, yet, tight and linear, deliciously expressive, as good blanc de blanc should be.

EGLY-OURIET GRAND CRU BRUT TRADITION NV

Disgorged in July 2016. The base of this wine is from 2011. 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, from incredibly low yielding Grand Cru vineyards. 50% of the base wine is from 2011 , 50% reserve wine (30% 2010, 20% 2009). The wine was naturally fermented, with half the wine fermented in aged oak casks. The first period of maturation lasts twelve months on fine lees. This makes an incredible difference to the end product, delivering a harmonious, textured complex wine. Disgorged after 4 years on lees with just a few grams of sugar in the dosage.

Paul’s notes: The perfect introduction to Egly. Excellent depth and length with mouth watering sherberty acid. Lovely complecity. Great acid, rich, round, yet taught. Fresh and supply whilst having beautiful layers of texture and flavour. It’s vibrancy is impressive. Beautifully developed.

2006 EGLY-OURIET GRNAD CRU MILLÉSME

Disgorged in May 2016 after nearly 9 years on lees. This wine is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay from 40 year old vines in the village of Ambonay. Aged completely in barrel with no malolactic fermentation and virtually no dosage.

Paul’s notes: This is a stunning wine with incredible depth and length, it has had a beautiful élévage, aging in oak and in bottle prior to disgorging. It’s rich personality has bags of intrigue. The mid-palate is insane, a hallmark of a great wine. The rich core of fruit is balanced beautifully by the sherberty acid and very low dosage. The high notes and vibrancy of this wine are perfectly complimented by a texture that simple caresses your tongue. The complexity and purity of this wine is incredible. Just superb.

EGLY-OURIET GRAND CRU BLANC DE NOIRS “VIELLES VIGNES” NV

Disgorged in May 2016. 100% Pinot Noir. From an outstanding single terroir known as Les Crayèreshigh up on the Ambonna slope, with vines planted in 1946. The soil is hardly 30cm deep, then it’s chalk, hundreds of metres down, hence the name of the site. A blend of 50% 2009 and 50% 2008. It was fermented and aged 100% in barriques. Tiraged for fermentation in bottle in 2010 and disgorged almost 6 years later with 3 grams dosage.

Paul’s notes: Exceptional. Again, like the 2006, a perfect élévage. As seems to be the case with all of the Egly’s, Francis, has so how managed to tame fruit of incredible depth and richness, whilst still retaining a vibrancy and subtle precise finesse. The high notes often missing from the super cuvées from the big Champagne houses are there in spades. Textural, complex, layered, harmonious. The savory, earthiness helps balance the incredibly powerful fruit. Somehow this wine manages to be ethereal, yet, rich. Outstanding. In the Krug vs Egly Blanc de Noirs smackdown Egly wins, and, the Krug is bloody good.

More About Egly-Ouriet

“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.

Another point of difference is that Egly-Ouriet lists on their back labels the amount of time each wine was aged on lees and when it was disgorged. 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].

More About Larmandier-Bernier

Like Egly-Ouriet and Selosse, Larmandier-Bernier has been rated as one of Champagne’s top 5 producers by Andrew Jefford in his celebrated work, The New France, [Mitchell Beazley]. This estate is meticulously run by Pierre Larmandier and his wife Sophie. Pierre’s family have owned vineyards in the Côte des Blancs since the Revolution. The estate is now 15 hectares, predominantly in Vertus, at the Southern tip of the Côte des Blancs, yet there are also holdings in Cramant, Chouilly, Oger & Avize. The vineyards are biodynamically worked (almost unheard of in Champagne) and the average age of the vines is 35 years (most Champagne vineyards are considered ‘old’ and due for replanting at 25 years). Yields are kept very low by Champagne standards, 50 hl/ha on average. In the winery the approach is classic “minimalist” with indigenous yeasts, long, slow ferments of up to two months and very little sulphur. A mixture of fermenting vessels are utilised including large oak vats and even barriques. Very low dosage levels too and the dosage is designed to be as neutral as possible. Sometimes, as is the case in the “Terre de Vertus” there is no dosage at all. In other words, everything is designed to maximise the expression of the vineyard, commune and vintage. The resulting wines are wonderful expressions of their origins, fine and delicate, yet with and a mineral intensity that keeps you coming back, sip after sip. They are also remarkably good food wines!

Andrew Jefford; The New France: “Few growers’ ranges in Champagne are as consistently outstanding as that of Larmandier-Bernier”
Tom Stevenson; World Encyclopaedia of Champagne: “This is one of the top six producers on the Côte des Blancs.”