Egly-Ouriet (pronounced egg-lee oo-ree-ay) is one of the greatest producers in Champagne today. The map of Champagne may be dominated by the Grande Marques in terms of volume of production, but in terms of quality, many small scale growers compete and even exceed the quality produced at the larger houses. For Simon, Egly-Ouriet is among the finest of all growers.
Antonio Galloni recently commented on the website of Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate that‘Egly-Ouriet remains one of Champagne’s leading small growers. From top to bottom these wines impress for their inimitable class……these are among the most pure, unmanipulated Champagnes readers will come across.’ He is right on each count.
I am struck by the definition of these wines, their completeness, their purity of fruit and natural expression. All of these wines produced by Francis Egly from Grand Cru classified villages in Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzenay; three of the top-rated villages in Champagne – this comment applies to even the ‘entry level’ Tradition cuvée. Each of the vineyards he owns comprise old vines on great terroir which deliver high class fruit. Nothing is hurried here and each of these cuvées benefits from extended ageing on the lees – the wines remain in his cellars for a minimum of four years (whereas the legal minimum in Champagne is just one year). The 2002 Grand Cru vintage spent 108 months in his cellar before release and was only disgorged in July of last year. Such extended lees-ageing builds complexity and finesse, while allowing the wine sufficient time to evolve and harmonise. This is all something of an antithesis to production line, brand oriented champagne, for which there is often a rapid release onto the market.
There is an extraordinary clarity to the fruit on account of the quality of the vineyards, which is also aided by the practice of low dosage (the addition of a sweet syrup to adjust the wine’s balance and overall dryness/sweetness). These are dry styles of Champagne with vibrant, refreshing characters; without doubt this range will age incredibly well. Even the non-vintage Tradition will evolve in bottle over three or four years; the 2002 and Blancs de Noirs over a much longer period. I should add that Monsieur Egly helpfully shows the disgorgement and time spent maturing in the cellars on the back label of each bottle.
Egly Ouriet, Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV
£170 per six bottles in bond
Aged for 50 months in the cellar before release and disgorged in September 2012. The base of this release is the 2008 vintage, which accounts for 50% of the blend, with the balance made up of reserve wines from the preceding three vintages. The blend is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.
You wouldn’t pick up that half the base wine was fermented in oak as there is a mere background hint of vanilla or almond. There is a fresh, pure fruit immediately on display, pear or peach skin and a smoky mineral quality. Subtle with a gentle, mellow richness, this is as complex and complete a non-vintage style as I can imagine. Intense, yet never heavy, there is a sense of ripe citrus and buttered toast. Not lacking in energy, this finishes with racy, pure – beautifully defined fruit. Long and lingering – this is well worth acquiring. In short a startling NV from a skilled grower. It could easily displace any Grande Marque that you might follow.
Egly Ouriet,Grand Cru Extra Brut, Vieillissement Prolongé NV
£230 per six bottles in bond
Aged for 76 months in the cellar, with a mammoth 72 months on its lees. ‘VP’ stands for ‘Vieillissement Prolongé’ (extended ageing) so I think we’ll refer to it as VP! It is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay and 60% of the blend is from the 2005 vintage, the rest from 2004 – two vintages that work well as blending partners, richness and definition.
Bright, light gold in the glass with expressive aromas of gentle toast, creamy patisserie and glazed apricots. The palate suggests anything other than an Extra Brut style, with a rich, deep fruit with notes of juicy stone fruit allied to zesty orange. Another sublime, totally captivating style from Francis Egly – precise to the last, lively with a racy, clean-cut finish. This is just so beautifully expressed – amazingly pure and persistent.
Egly Ouriet, Blanc des Noirs Grand Cru, Les Crayères Vielles Vignes NV
£450 per six bottles in bond
Though non-vintage on the label this is in fact solely from the 2006 vintage. Aged for 54 months in the cellar and disgorged in January this year. This is a pure Pinot Noir and something of a head-turner made solely from old-vine fruit in the named vineyard (lieux-dit) of Les Crayères in Ambonnay.
Deep gold in the glass, the nose is stunning – true Pinot with notes of wild strawberry and pomegranate. There is a great sense of proportion on the palate; leesy, apple notes meld with stone fruit and are underscored by a zesty almost orangey note. A richer more imposing wine, powerful and tightly wound, yet not at all heavy, This needs a little time to come together after disgorgement, but has the potential to be utterly spectacular. For all its fruit and density, there is a real mineral race to this style, tense, lively and wonderfully pure, chalky and mineral on the finish. Could this express its origins better? I doubt it, Ambonnay through and through. Little wonder this village enjoys such a reputation, which has only been embellished by Krug’s most recent single vineyard offering.
Egly Ouriet, Brut Grand Cru Millesime 2002
£460 per six bottles in bond
Aged for a whopping 108 months in the cellar before release, this is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It was disgorged in July 2012.
Bright, green-gold in the glass, the aromas may well be Pinot dominated, but it is clear what the Chardonnay brings to the wine. This is more open-knit and exuberant than the Blanc de Noirs, with creamy patisserie notes melding with glazed fruits, as well as wild strawberry and a smoky mineral accent. Leesy and gently honeyed, this wine is spectacular – a luxuriant yet soft mousse and a mellow acidity set the scene for a palate of effortless creamy orchard fruit, buttery brioche, hints of spice. This is rich but so well poised – it flows so naturally and carries its undeniable weight so well. The finish is suitably long and persistent with those mineral, chalky Crayères nuances revealed to the finish. Sublime, sublime, sublime. Miss this and you are missing out – clients are advised to hook these top grower 2002s as they appear as vintages of this calibre do not occur every year.
These are quite something - I can’t endorse them enough, and yes, before anyone says it, I know I am something of a Champagne nut.
Please let us know if you are interested in purchasing these wines at your earliest convenience. While we may be able to hold onto, or re-order the Grand Cru Tradition in the next six months, it is more unlikely on the other wines listed as they are in limited supply.