Champagne Egly Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Les Crayères (Base 16 Disg Jul 23) NV
- Producer: Egly-Ouriet
- Varietal: Champagne
- Region: Champagne
- Alcohol: 12.5%
- Net volume: 750ml
- Vintage: NV
- Cellar until 2030
Style GuideExtra Dry Fruity-Off Dry
In some ways, this is the emblematic wine of the domaine. It was Michel Bettane, the influential French critic, who encouraged Francis Egly to bottle this single vineyard wine separately, with the first release being from the 1989 vintage. This latest offering was bottled after the 2016 base had spent close to one year in cask before being blended with 50% reserve wines from the 2015 vintage. All the vinification and aging for both vintages was in barrel. The fruit comes from old Pinot Noir vines in a single terroir known as Les Crayères. The vines here were planted in 1946, so are now 75 years old (vines of this age are extremely rare in Champagne). Here the soil is barely 30cm deep, then it’s chalk, hundreds of metres down—hence the name of the site (craie is French for ‘chalk’, crayères references chalk quarries which likely once existed here). Les Crayères is situated mid-slope with a full south-facing exposure, not far from the estate’s cellars. The old vines are deeply rooted, giving the wine a classic, mineral energy that weaves its way through the powerful, layered Pinot Noir fruit. The deep concentration is a product of the ripeness and low yields that both the site and its ancient vines naturally deliver. The 2016 base is both a tribute to the greatest sites of Ambonnay and to the Egly-Ouriet domaine. Houses that emphasise blending may consider a 100% old-vine Ambonnay like this to be too intense; Egly gives it to you full throttle! This release is a wine of profound depth yet also great finesse. It’s still early days for the nose (if you open it now, give it time) while the palate is already stunning; a chiselled, mineral mouth bomb. The dosage is only two grams per litre and it’s invisible. An expression of a singular terroir, this is, of course, a unique wine that is, as always, built for food and for aging.
Francis Egly is a vigneron growing and crafting wines that offer remarkable intensity as well as transparency of site, from vines that are positively ancient by Champagne standards. Like all great French growers, the Egly philosophy can be defined by one word: terroir. Very low yields, old vines, only great sites, perfectly ripe fruit, extended lees aging (the Brut NV can spend up to 48 months on lees) very low or no dosage and no fining and/or filtration are all decisions taken because Egly believes that they allow his terroir to speak most clearly. These practices are identical to the finest growers in Burgundy and the polar opposite of conventional Champagne production. As Michel Bettane, the leading French critic has written, the “… larger houses cannot hope to emulate the cultivation norms…” that are found here. The resulting wines are amongst the purest, terroir-driven and un-manipulated wines in the whole of France. To quote Andrew Jefford in The New France, they are “…wines of riveting concentration and purity”.
Egly-Ouriet only produces wines from its own vines. There are close to 10 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards, mostly in Ambonnay, but also in Verzenay and Bouzy. Then, there’s two hectares of Pinot Meunier in the 1er Cru village of Vrigny, that gifts the coveted 100% Pinot Meunier Les Vignes de Vrigny. And now, there are also estate vines in the villages of Trigny (in the Massif de Sainte-Thierry area just north of Reims) and Bisseuil (near Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Aÿ, south of Ambonnay).
“These are among the purest, unmanipulated Champagnes readers will come across.” Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate
Francis Egly took over from his father, Michel, in 1982, after which he immediately converted the Domaine to 100% estate bottling. In turn, this fastidious fourth-generation vigneron has recently been joined by his returning children prompting the recent acquisition of new vineyards in preparation for the passing of the baton. The Domaine has now built a new cellar to store the extra volume being generated from these sites. They have also recently installed refrigerated press pans to immediately cool the must at pressing and a peristaltic pump to handle the wines even more gently. It is not by accident that this growth in production coincides with the full-time return of the Egly children to work at the Domaine. Charles has now returned to work in the vineyards and was joined recently by his sister, Clémence, who completed her wine studies in Dijon. Some fresh vines and equipment for the next generation to sink their teeth into.
When you start to open and drink the wines of a great grower like Egly, as you would with any other great wine, you start to realise their incredible versatility. First of all, they go with a staggering array of dishes: any kind of bird, game, pork, veal, charcuterie, terrine, most seafood, and some cheeses. You have to work pretty hard to find something that doesn’t work. And they have the added bonus of staying fresh—and even improving—for days after opening. As Peter Liem describes them, “If there are any Champagnes that fit the often-used description of “Burgundy with bubbles”, Egly-Ouriet’s would be the leading candidates.”
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