While there is no shortage of excellent wines or personalities in Champagne, a quick visit to Elisabeth and Jean-Marie Egrot in Ay, just east of Epernay, is a great way to find the best of both. The couple has been making top-tier grower champagne for many years, and started bottling under their married name three years ago. Gary Westby and I stopped by yesterday.
We started by taking a tour of their Grand Cru vines on the steep, south facing slopes of Ay, which has some of the chalkiest for Pinot Noir in Champagne. It lends their wines power, structure and charm. Here we tried the nonvintage Egrot Brut, which is made mostly with Pinot Noir from Ay, with a small amount of Chardonnay from the Grand Cru of Louvois on the Montagne de Reims. It rests for five years sur-lie.
Maybe it was the setting, or perhaps the company, but I was blown away by how good it was. It had delicious flavors of pears, cherries, and apple blossoms with subtle toast and intense minerality. At just under $35 a bottle, it is a dream come true for Pinot champagne enthusiasts.
We headed back to the winery to taste the rest of the line-up, but not before an impromptu visit from Maurice, or MoMo, the beautiful family cat. Momo apparently has a Masters degree in Marketing and knew exactly where to pose for a photo op.
Back at the winery, we tasted through the single-vintage offerings, which offer customers some of the best value in Grand Cru vintage champagne on the market.
The 2009 is made from 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay, all Grand Cru from Ay, and is a personal favorite of mine. The ripe vintage required no dosage at all, and the richness of the stone fruit, cherry and lemon flavors are breathtaking. The natural acidity lends perfect balance and the chalky texture is delightful.
The 2011 Egrot Brut offers customers a more savory experience, with rich peach, cherry and lemon citrus-fruit with hints of chantrelle mushrooms and brisk chalky minerals. It was dosed at 4 g/L and is has a beautiful, long, acid-driven finish.
Finally I had the opportunity to watch my first hand-disgorgement, when Jean-Marie pulled a bottle of the highly-anticipated 2008 vintage Brut out of his cellar. While it hadn’t been dosed yet, it was absolutely stunning and a great preview of the greatness to come. It had rich flavors of apple compote, acacia flowers, and honey with a touch of nutty savoriness, unbelievable acidity and an eternal finish. This is going to be a legendary Grand Cru vintage bottling, and one customers should keep on their radar going forward.