Which would you prefer? To respect, or to love?
Good blanc de blancs champagne deserves attention and thoughtful appreciation, and at its best, a fine chardonnay-based champagne demands honor, respect, and devotion. But, like a fine Burgundy, a good blanc de noirs inspires longing, desire, and ultimately, something verging on simple and pure lust. It is like the old adage, that Bordeaux is an intellectual pursuit, that Claret appeals to the head, where Burgundy appeals to the heart, and below. And so it is in champagne; chardonnay may lend class and finesse but pinot delivers drama, character, and excitement. Wines built on a majority or exclusively on pinot noir, are the most exotic of all champagnes. The best of them offer a truly intoxicating brew.
Terroir and ‘The Growers’ Own’
A lot has been written about a movement that has become a revolution over the last 20 years, of small champagne growers who have taken the opportunity to invest in the equipment and facilities needed to produce their own champagnes, rather than sell off their grapes to the Grande Marque houses or cooperatives. It is an exciting change in an otherwise conservative landscape. And it has reinvigorated interest and demand for champagne, particularly among collectors and consumers whose passion rests further to the South, in Burgundy. In essence, this movement is defined by terroir. Some growers have initiated cellar practices that over-ride their origins but ultimately it is the terroir, the land on which the grower grows his grapes, that determines the quality of his wine.
Egly – Ouriet; The Definitive Pinot- Based Champagnes
If you consider champagne from afar, some grapes do well here, others do well there, but there are two sublime combinations; Chardonnay from the Cote de Blancs and Pinot on the Montagne de Reims. On the Cote, the map of grand cru villages, Mesnil, Oger, Avize, Cramant rise from the South like a fine mousse that reaches the Vallé de la Marne at Epernay. But on the Montagne, the village of Ambonnay stands above all others as the paramount Pinot producing village. In Ambonnay there is one grower who is consistently cited as having the finest vineyards, the best grapes and the best wines: that grower and domaine is Egly Ouriet. In short, if you want to find the best, the most dramatic and exhilarating Pinot dominated champagnes, you must buy Egly Ouriet.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Rose Grand Cru NV
$80 per bottle
92 points Vinous: “The NV Brut Rosé Grand Cru is fresh, delicate and precise. Scents of chalk, cranberry, white pepper and mint all give the Rosé much of its lifted, aromatically beguiling personality. Deceptively medium in body, the Rosé is a wine built on tension, energy and lift rather than size. It is also quite a bit less overtly vinous than most of the other wines in the range. Depth and intensity are implied rather than overtly stated in Egly-Ouriet’s Rosé, a striking wine to drink now and over the next handful of years. Disgorged: July 2015.”
Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Tradition Brut NV
$60 per bottle
91 points Burghound: “The last time this cuvée was reviewed (disgorgement in 2006) it was noticeably toastier and a bit less elegant than this version, if a bit more complex. The hallmark toastiness of the Egly house style is certainly present though as I note, to a lesser extent. The pinot fruit is evident on both the nose and the palate with good effervescence to the attractively intense, crisp and vibrant flavors that possess fine finishing punch on the moderately dry finish. This could be enjoyed now though I would personally opt to hold it for 2 to 3 years first.”
Egly-Ouriet Les Crayeres Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru NV
$130 per bottle
94 points View From the Cellar: “This bottling hails from the famed les Crayères vineyard in Ambonnay, and having spent five years aging sur latte in the Egly-Ouriet cellars, it is from the 2009 base year. The wine is starting to drink beautifully today, offering up a deep and blossoming nose of peach, apple, a touch of hazelnut, complex minerality, wheat toast, caraway seed and a fine, smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, broad-shouldered, full-bodied and mineral-laden, with a rock solid core of fruit, fine focus and grip, elegant mousse and a long, brisk and complex finish. This is already starting to show the first elements of its secondary layers of complexity on both the nose and palate and is really an excellent bottle of bubbly.”
Egly-Ouriet VP Extra Brut Grand Cru NV
$80 per bottle
95 points Vinous: “One of the many highlights in this range, the NV Extra Brut Grand Cru V.P. (Vieillissement Prolongé) bristles with energy from start to finish. Two important vintages (2008 and 2006) come together in this release. Lemon oil, chamomile, pear, hazelnut, acacia and wild flowers open up in the glass, but it is the wine’s interplay of power and freshness that is totally beguiling. There is so much to like. The current release is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, 60% 2008 and 40% 2006. Disgorged November, 2015.”