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Champagne Egly-Ouriet

The Best of the Best: Grower Champagne of Riveting Purity and Intensity

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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Champagne Egly-Ouriet Ratafia

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Ratafia

Ratafia de Champagne is a liqueur aperitif, made with the juice of freshly picked Champagne grapes fortified immediately after pressing (to prevent fermentation commencing). This fortification comes via grape spirit distilled from Champagne grape skins. It’s a style of wine that belongs to the same family as Cognac’s Pineau des Charentes. Having said all of that, as with anything that is bottled by this great grower, the Egly Ratafia is not your average example of the genre. Apart from the renowned work in the vineyard, Egly uses only perfectly ripe, 100% Grand Cru, estate-grown and sorted Pinot Noir fruit—while most producers of Ratafia use their weakest grapes and wines. This is also from a single vintage, in this case, 2018. The fruit was sorted and pressed gently and the finest of grape spirit or marc (distilled from Egly’s own fruit of course) was added. It then spent four years mellowing in barrel. As we have come to expect, this perfectionist grower refuses to aim for anything less than greatness, no matter what he is making. As a result, this is a stunningly pure and intense expression of Ratafia that can be drunk on its own, over ice, with soda, or used to make a wonderful version of kir. It also stays fresh in the fridge for months. Bottled in 2023.

When you consider that most Ratafia comes from a Champagne producer’s weakest fruit, you can begin to understand that we are not talking about a standard example here! As we have come to expect, this perfectionist grower refuses to aim for anything less than greatness and that is what we get with this example. It is a stunningly pure and intense expression of this rare style that can be drunk on its own, over ice, with soda or used to make a wonderful version of kir. It also stays fresh in the fridge for months. Bottled in 2021.

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Ratafia
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru NV (Base 18, Disg Jul 23)

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru NV (Base 18, Disg Jul 23)

Vintages: 2018 (60%), 2017 (20%), 2016 (20%) Bottling: 2019 Disgorgement: July 2023 Time on lees: 48 months This is simply a staggering release of this wine. As always, it’s made exclusively from low-yielding Grand Cru vines, predominantly located in Ambonnay, but also Bouzy and Verzenay. Again, as always, it’s 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The old cliché—Egly starts harvesting when everyone else has finished—still holds true and it’s obvious from the first sip that this wine is made from perfectly ripe fruit. Natural fermentation was with wild yeasts only and the first period of maturation (before going to bottle) lasted almost one year, with the wine remaining on its fine lees for the whole time. Over 50% of the wine was fermented and aged in barrel. The dosage was a tiny one gram per litre. It's a wine of tremendous finesse; wonderfully bright and loaded with Pinot character—juicy red fruits and all kinds of spice—and a long, tonic close that’s both chalky and saline. It’s a terrific food wine and will gain more and more depth over the next three to twelve months. The superb 2018 vintage plays its part in raising this to the very top level, and it’s as good a release of this cuvée as we’ve tasted (which is saying something when you consider how many years we’ve been shipping it!) So, grab what you can! As we’ve said many times, if Egly made only this wine, he would still be one of the superstars of the region; it puts to shame many a prestige cuvée at considerably higher prices.

"Based on the 2018 vintage, Egly's newly released NV Brut Grand Cru offers up inviting aromas of honeyed pear and white flowers mingled with hints of mint and praline. Medium to full-bodied, pillowy and chiseled, it's an especially fine-boned, precise rendition of this immensely dependable cuvée, formerly known as the domaine's "Tradition" bottling."
92+ points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru NV (Base 18, Disg Jul 23)
Champagne Egly-Ouriet 1er Cru Les Vignes de Bisseuil NV (Base 18, Disg Jul 23)

Champagne Egly-Ouriet 1er Cru Les Vignes de Bisseuil NV (Base 18, Disg Jul 23)

Vintages: 2018 (60%), 2017 (20%), 2016 (20%)Bottling: 2019Disgorgement: July 2023Time on lees: 48 monthsThis is the third release of Egly’s sole Chardonnay dominant cuvée and it’s the first release to include three vintages in the blend. The wine is drawn from a plot of vines on the south-facing slopes of Bisseuil, a village just to the east of the famous Grand Cru communes of Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. While these two latter villages are renowned for Pinot Noir, Bisseuil is more known for Chardonnay; it’s the only village in the area that has more Chardonnay than Pinot Noir in its vineyards. The blend here is 70% Chardonnay with 15% Pinot Noir and 15% Meunier. The Egly Bisseuil vines cover 1.5 hectares and span two lieux-dits. They have now been farmed by the Egly family for more than seven years—Francis and Annick Egly purchased these vines in anticipation of their children Clémence and Charles joining the domaine. The vine age averages 40 years. Les Vignes de Bisseuil was vinified entirely in barrel and spent four years in the cellar prior to disgorgement with two grams per litre dosage. This is a fascinating contrast to the rest of the range. As you might expect, it has a much more ‘Chardonnay’ personality with waves of orchard fruit, white flowers, fresh butter and even almond-oil notes. Although these elements suggest richness, the wine is, in fact, bright and full of energy with a powdery, pithy close. It has all the vinosity, texture and thrilling tension for which this great grower is renowned. With the outstanding 2018 vintage forming 60% of the cuvée, this is far and away the finest Les Vignes de Bisseuil released to date.

"Based on the 2018 vintage, the latest release of Egly's NV Brut Vignes de Bisseuil was disgorged this year with two grams per liter dosage. Offering up aromas of sweet orchard fruit and crisp white peach mingled with notions of white flowers, praline and freshly baked bread, it's medium to full-bodied, pillowy and charming, with a fleshy core of fruit and a racy, chalky spine. It's a bright, precise rendition of this Chardonnay-dominant cuvée."
92 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Champagne Egly-Ouriet 1er Cru Les Vignes de Bisseuil NV (Base 18, Disg Jul 23)
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Millésime 2014 (Disg Jul 23)

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Millésime 2014 (Disg Jul 23)

Bottling: 2015Disgorgement: July 2023Time on lees: 96 monthsThis is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from 40-year-old vines in Ambonnay. The wine was aged completely in barrel and there was only one gram per litre dosage. It is a seductive, layered, powerful expression of Ambonnay and, as with the Blanc de Noirs, represents one of the very finest wines of Champagne. Far from falling in the shadow of his spectacular 2012 and 2013 releases, the 2014 is very much their equal. Francis Egly told us that he believes it’s one of the finest Millésime wines he has produced. The summer was cool, and then from mid-August through early September, he had ideal ripening conditions and the family harvested exceptional fruit. The result is a strikingly beautiful wine with floral notes, great energy and tremendous finesse. In a word, breathtaking. Yes, it is now getting up there in price, but we also need to consider not only the otherworldly quality but also the length of time these wines are being held in the cellar. They are essays in perfection and when compared to the prices of wines like Clos d’Ambonnay or many a Grand Cru Burgundy released two years after harvest, the price starts to look quite different.

"One of the very finest wines produced in this less heralded vintage is Egly's 2014 Brut Grand Cru Millésime, a strikingly vinous and enveloping Champagne that wafts from the glass with aromas of pear, mirabelle plum, freshly baked bread, almond paste and honeycomb. Full-bodied, satiny and layered, its textural attack segues into a deep, concentrated mid-palate of exceptional purity and cut, concluding with a long, penetrating and mouthwateringly saline finish. As ever, it's a blend of some 70% Pinot Noir with 30% Chardonnay from Ambonnay's greatest terroirs."
97 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Millésime 2014 (Disg Jul 23)
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Les Crayères NV (Base 16, Disg Jul 23)

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Les Crayères NV (Base 16, Disg Jul 23)

Vintages: 2016 (50%), 2015 (50%)Bottling: 2017Disgorgement: July 2023Time on lees: 72 monthsIn 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.

"A blend of the 2016 and 2015 vintages, the NV Brut Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Les Crayères is an especially good rendition of this almost routinely sublime bottling. Unwinding in the glass with notes of pear, wild berries, clear honey, white flowers, praline and freshly baked bread, it's medium to full-bodied, beautifully layered and textural, with a taut, concentrated core, racy acids and a long, mineral finish. This chiseled, intensely flavored Champagne was disgorged this year with only one gram per liter dosage."
98+ points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes Les Crayères NV (Base 16, Disg Jul 23)
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“Egly-Ouriet remains the finest grower in Champagne right now, and my only 10/10 grower.” Tyson Stelzer, The Champagne Guide 

“Francis Egly has been making wine at this renowned Ambonnay estate since 1982, and among grower producers today, he has a reputation in the region only second to Anselme Selosse.” Peter Liem, Champagne

“… far from resting on the considerable and merited laurels that he has accrued over a 30-year career, Francis Egly continues to refine and improve … No winemaker in Champagne is more precise or meticulous, from vineyard to cellar… and I continue to be amazed at the reasonable tariff such artisanal craftsmanship commands in a region where those qualities remain hard to come by.” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate

Country

France

Primary Region

Champagne

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Winemaker: Francis Egly

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National

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