Sunday, July 29, 2018

Egly-Ouriet: One of the top two "Great Growers" in the Champagne region

I resume my survey of Champagne's Great Growers with a review of Montagne de Reims' Egly-Ouriet Champagne.

In his much-heralded tome Champagne, Peter Liem describes Francis Egly, current owner of Egly-Ouriet, as being second in reputation only to Anselme Selosse among grower-producers. Further, "his champagnes are powerful and rich, although they are capable of great complexity and finesse" (Peter Liem). In discussing Egly's contribution to the grower movement, Robert Walters (Bursting Bubbles) states thusly: "Undoubtedly, Selosse, as a more outspoken, open and charismatic figure, has been far more influential on the grower movement in general, yet the Egly legacy is also significant."

Egly-Ouriet Champagne was established in the 1930s. Francis began working with his father (Michel) in the early 1980s and took the reins fully when his father stepped back from the business in the early 1990s. The family's historical holdings are the Grand Cru vineyards shown in the figure below with the Premier Cru vineyard brought into the enterprise by Francis' wife.

The Vrigny Premier Cru vineyard is planted exclusively
to Pinot Meunier while the Grand Cru vineyards are planted
 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

In his father's time, all the grapes were sold to negociants but they began bottling their production during the early stages of Francis' participation in business affairs. Francis attributes the quality of his wines to his pursuit of optimal ripeness, a practice resulting from the recommendation of noted French wine writer Michel Bettane. The vineyard practices employed in order to sustainably produce ripe fruit include (Walters):
  • Regular plowing
  • No pesticides
  • Organic compost only
  • Shoot thinning
  • Leaf thinning
  • Fruit thinning
  • Harvesting later than most.
Grapes are hand-harvested when fully ripe and transported to the cellar where they are gently pressed whole-cluster in a refrigerated Press. Only the first-run juice is used in the wines. The must is fermented in tank or French oak with indigenous yeasts. The base wines are aged on their lees prior to undergoing in-bottle fermentation. The Egly-Ouriet cellar is built on multiple levels to allow garvity-based movement of must and wine.

The Egly-Ouriet portfolio of wines is shown in the chart below.

In addition to the Champagnes shown above, Egly-Ouriet produces
 a Pinot Noir still wine from a single, old-vine parcel in Ambonnay.
The wine is only produced in the best years.

The words that are repeated again and again in relation to Egly-Ouriet wines are power, intensity, and purity of fruit. In describing the Blanc de Noir, arguably one of the best Blanc de Noirs in the region, Walker states:
This is the emblematic Egly wine: remarkable depth and power of fruit yet with a pillowy, layered texture and an electric intensity of chalky freshness that keeps the wine dancing across the palate ...If I had to choose two wines to highlight the work of Egly, it would be this one and the Brut Tradition.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme