Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV
I hurried down the steps of the Boeing 737-800 onto the tarmac at Edinburgh airport, and drew my fleece more tightly around my chest. I had left the warm climes of Bordeaux – it was 24ºC on my departure – and returned to the chill of Scotland. Fresh thoughts of emigrating to somewhere warmer filled my head. For now, though, that would have to wait; it was time to get writing my Bordeaux 2012 report, so that I can begin publication this week. And to refresh the palate after all those grumpy barrel samples, and to help fuel the typist’s fingers, something free of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot was required. Preferably something lively, fresh and invigorating. It would have to be Champagne. And why not Egly-Ouriet?
Egly-Ouriet is a well known and respected grower, although not one that I ever became sufficiently familiar with to profile on Winedoctor, back in the days before I decided solely to focus on Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. This is a family run domaine, and the patriarch Francis Egly has just 11.7 hectares of vines to his name. He is based in Ambonnay, one of several grand cru villages in the Montagne de Reims, one of Champagne’s principal regions. Ambonnay is the second largest of all the grands crus with about 360 hectares, mostly planted with Pinot Noir, this variety accounting for 85% of the vineyards here. The soils are principally belemnite and micraster chalks, very typical of the region. Francis Egly owns 8 hectares here, and this is the bedrock of the domaine; he also has 1.4 hectares in Verzenay, on the more northerly side of the mountain, and 0.3 hectares in Bouzy, next-door to Ambonnay. These latter two villages are also entirely grand cru. Completing the picture, Francis has 2 hectares of Pinot Meunier in Vrigny, a premier cru village to the west of Reims.
This weekend’s reinvigorating libation is probably the domaine’s best known wine, and surely the ideal introduction to the Egly-Ouriet style. The Brut Tradition Grand Cru is sourced from the three aforementioned grand cru villages, and is therefore unsurprisingly dominated by Pinot Noir, which makes up 70% of the blend, the remaining 30% being Chardonnay. If you were expecting the Pinot Meunier to make an appearance, be aware that the fruit of the vines in Vrigny is channelled into its own cuvée, Les Vignes de Vrigny. The house style is influenced by the use of oak for the first fermentation for at least some (but not all) of the wines, and a relatively low dosage typically less than 5 g/l.
Although non-vintage wines can confuse communication with the consumer, this is avoided by Francis who states not only the date of disgorgement on the back label (in this case, May 2012) but also the length of time the wine was age on the lees (here, a magnificent 46 months). Nevertheless, in the glass the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru displays its youth as it foams wildly in the glass, but it soon settles down to display a calm but plentiful bead, with moderately fine bubbles. The nose is simply charming, open and accessible; it actually starts off with some notes of baked apples and feels slightly oxidative, but after about ten minutes these aromas have given way to scents of brioche and toast, with a cashew nut backdrop, and cleaner notes of fresh-cut green apple. It is classically Pinot Noir in style, and it promises much. It has a very harmonious start on the palate, showing good weight and a very creamy, pleasing, harmonious middle, with good support from the acids and mousse. It feels ripe, slightly exotic, but dry and precise. It might not have such a long finish, but it feels very composed. Overall this is a very smart Champagne which should be very popular with all. A refreshing antidote to the barrel samples of Bordeaux, and there’s no need to wait, I would be very happy to get drinking this now rather than confining to the cellar I think. 16.5/20 (15/4/13)