Francis Egly is one of the leading growers in Champagne. He is smart, passionate, skilled and precise in his approach to viticulture. His attention and consideration to the specific vintage conditions for each of his wines makes them some of the best in the region. Located in Ambonnay, the house excels in Pinot Noir dominant wines, and produces perhaps the region’s greatest blanc de noirs, the Grand Cru ‘Les Crayeres’ Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes.
15 Rue de Trepail, Ambonnay +33 3 26 57 00 70
It is safe to say the Egly-Ouriet wines are at the pinnacle of Pinot Noir expression. The abundant fruit is combined with an elegant softness, for a taste profile that is completely unique and very special.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru villages of Ambonnay, Verzenay and Bouzy. Wild yeasts initiate fermentation. Around 20% of the wine is fermented in oak, the remainder in enamel tanks. Reserve wines from several vintages are used in varying amounts, and the wine ages on its lees for at least 36 months. Dosage is 3-4g/L.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Rose
65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards. 8% of still red Pinot Noir from Ambonnay is added to the blend, which is aged for 4 years. Dosage is a miniscule 2g/L.
Egly-Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny
100% Meunier from the Premier Cru village of Vrigny. Aged for 36 months on the lees and bottled without fining or filtration. The dosage is 2-3g/L.
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards. The V.P. stands for vieillissement prolonge, or ‘extended ageing’. This wine matures for 55-70 months on the lees. Fermented mostly in oak with a dosage of just 2g/L.
Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Brut
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards in Ambonnay. The only vintage dated wine in the range. This wine ages for as long as a decade before release.
Egly-Ouriet Les Crayeres Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes
100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir from vines planted in the 1940s at a single vineyard, ‘Les Crayeres’, in Ambonnay. The wine is fermented completely in barriques and spends 48 months on the lees. Dosage is 2g/L.
Egly-Ouriet Coteaux Champenois Ambonnay Rouge
100% Pinot Noir from Grand Cru vineyards in Ambonnay. An exceptional still Pinot Noir that has cultivated quite a following. Sourced from a few small parcels of 50-year-old, low-yielding vines, the wine is completely vinified in oak.
Founded by Charles Egly in 1930, the house of Egly-Ouriet mainly sold grapes to negociants in its early years. While Charles did make a few thousand bottles to enjoy with his friends, there was no production on a commercial level. His son Michel began working with him in the 1970s, and they increased their estate-owned bottlings to around 15,000-20,000 each year. It wasn’t until the current owner, Michel’s son Francis, assumed control of the house in 1982 that the entire harvest went into their own label wines.
Francis was an only child, and under the inheritance laws in Champagne he was entitled to inherit all the land of his parents. (Compare that to his grandfather, who had to share the family land with eight other siblings.) Purchasing land is a rare event in Champagne since the parcels are almost always passed down within a family. So it was extremely fortuitous that Francis’ wife, also an only child, inherited land as well. This nearly doubled the total Egly-Ouriet holdings to a total of 12 hectares.
Francis is one of the most exceptional growers in Champagne. He is very environmentally conscious and nurtures his land, with the help of soil consultant Claude Bourguignon. Together, they have dramatically lowered the use of pesticides and herbicides.
The 12 hectares of Egly-Ouriet vineyards are planted mainly in the Pinot Noir abundant Grand Cru village of Ambonnay, with smaller plots in Bouzy and Verzenay. They also have a very interesting, small portion of noteworthy old vines in Vrigny, which is planted solely with Meunier. Francis recognized the striking character of these grapes and dedicates one of his cuvees to this low-yielding, single vineyard.
Approximately 75% of the plantings are Pinot Noir, the rest is Chardonnay with the small parcel of Meunier mentioned above. The vines have an average age of 35 years, with some as old as 50 years.
They plough the vineyards and perform a thorough green harvest to restrict the yields and concentrate the fruit character.
In the winery, fermentation is initiated by natural yeasts and takes place in barriques or enamel tanks. Francis believes that oak fermentation helps to draw out the essence of the terroir, as well as bringing complexity to the wine, and increasing its capacity for ageing.
The minimum time the wines age on their lees is 3 to 4 years, and many are kept much longer. Francis has no strict rules when it comes to malolactic fermentation. For him, it depends on the quality of the vintage, and he will decide each year if full or partial malo is required, or none at all. The wines are bottled late to allow them to clarify naturally, and are never fined or filtered.
Low dosage is one of Francis’ main tenets because he wants the purity of the wine to stand out, unmasked by additional sweetness.
Each bottle’s label states the villages where the grapes were sourced, the exact length of ageing and the disgorgement date.
However, all these procedures are flexible depending on the best interest of the wines. As Francis told us on a recent visit: “Each year I make champagne in different way, depending on the vintage conditions. Sometimes I ferment in oak, otherwise in tank - enamel-lined, not stainless steel. I try not to use additional yeast, but sometimes it is obligatory. Usually the alcohol level in my wines is 13 degrees, but in 2010 it was only 10 degrees. I do not have identical wines.”
And surely that’s why we love them.