No, I'm not speaking in Klingon or some other alien language. It is actually French. Pronounced pretty much as it reads: egg-lee oo-ree-ay, and it is one of only a handful of what is known as "Grower Champagnes."
Some additional background information is due right about now. As loyal readers of my blog (what are there, 2 or 3 or you?) you would know that one of my favorite grapes to be Sauvignon Blanc. HOWEVER, as another way I like to express my "favorites" is by using the analogy of "If I were stuck on a deserted Island, what 1 wine would I want with me." I know what you're thinking, Sauvignon Blanc! And you'd be wrong. In that situation, I would want Champagne.
I learned a long time ago that Champagne, or sparkling wine as it's known in the rest of the world, is not just for holidays or special occasions. While that tends to be the most opportune time, I like to think that be it Champagne or any Outstanding wine can, and should be, enjoyed throughout the year. That said, and being in the midst of the holiday season, it is only appropriate that I add a festive wine such as Champagne to my "Wine of the Week."
As much as I enjoy Champagne, I had very little dealings with the house of Egy Ouriet until recently. I'm glad I did! I had seen it in the most recent Wine Spectator in an article they did on Champagne and addressing the winery specifically. I was intrigued. I then received a call from one of my wine reps asking if I could do a Champagne tasting, or two. Not one to turn down that type of opportunity, I gladly accepted. What luck happened next.
About a week before the event I was sent the sparkling wines I would be pouring. There they were, 2 wines from Egly (I've shortened the name as I feel I'm already good friends with them). Being the age that I am, I couldn't go jumping around and wave my arms in excitement. Well, at least I won't admit to doing that.
Right there in black and white was their Brut Champagne Tradition Grand Cru NV and the Brut Champagne Les Vignes de Vrigny Premier Cru NV (click here for tech sheet). After a little more research, I came to discover that as one of the few "Grower" Champagne Houses, they own their own vineyards, a scant 25 acres. I also learned many things that impressed the heck out of me. Not only all Estate fruit, their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards are designated as "Grand Cru." That's basically the best of the best. Farming methods are biodynamic and organic. He doesn't produce his Champagne to a "house" style, he produces what he (Francis Egly - Owner and Winemaker) considers the best quality of wine. Complexity is built upon extended lees aging that can go from 36 to 100 months! Followed by at least 3 years bottle aging. This is definitely a smaller producer. Only around 100,000 BOTTLES are produced yearly. That's a drop in the bucket as compared to others. Only 150 cases of the Les Vignes were imported this year. Lastly, and I love this about his Champagne, he puts the Date of Disgorgement on the bottles. That gives you an idea if that bottle has been on the shelf for a while and to make sure scores match up to that years bottling. FYI, mine showed the date as July 2016. That is the most recent and in line with the 92 Point scoring from both Wine Spectator and Vinous Media.
So what made me choose the Les Vignes over the Tradition? (You know it's coming) Well, I'll tell you! The Les Vignes is made with 100% Pinot Meunier from 40 year old vines. That's almost unheard of. The Champagne being made with Pinot Meunier, one of the approved grapes in Champagne production. There may be others, but I haven't run across any. Again, a small 5 acre plot of Estate fruit transformed into what can only be described as something wonderful. Bright with a hint of stone fruit and nuttiness. Flavors not usually found in Champagnes. I like different!
Now remember, it's holiday time, so while it's price of around $70 is a little steep, it should not deter you from purchasing this wonderful Champagne. I can also recommend the Tradition Grand Cru at around $80. Disgorged in July 2016 as well. Should you find this Champagne with different disgorgement dates, just be aware it's been on the shelf for a little while, but that doesn't mean it's bad. If possible, check for ratings, and if they are in the same ballpark, you should be fine. This is a Champagne that can age very well.