In the cellar, his approach is equally hands-off.
Marcel is notable for being a complete non-interventionist, utilizing spontaneous, native yeast fermentation that takes place deep in his cold cellar in Loché. He does not add sulfur to the grapes when they arrive in the winery. The resulting fermentations are long and cool, as Marcel never rushes his fermentations by warming the cellar. Both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations occur naturally in traditional Burgundy barrels, where he retains some of the gross lees during fermentation, resulting in a small amount of skin contact during both fermentation and élevage. Once the wines are in the barrel, they are basically left alone from that point until they are racked and bottled. The wines ferment and age in the same barrels without racking and battonage, as Marcel is wary of making the wines too fat and leesy. His approach is the definition of natural, employing the lowest intervention winemaking imaginable: the wine is put into barrel and left there until right before the following harvest, following the rhythm of the seasons. His wines offer incredible delicacy with aromatic purity and complexity as a result.
The entry to his production is Mâcon-Loché Les Longues Terres, which is a pure expression of Chardonnay from the southern Mâconnais, made with fruit from over 35-year-old vines planted in clay calcareous soil in his vineyards in Loché. The soils here consist of a clay-calcareous layer on top of impenetrable calcareous rock. The layer of workable soil is quite thin in some areas and through plowing his soils frequently, he is able actually to increase the calcareous content and health of the soil. These farming techniques result in an elegant, vivacious wine.
Marcel’s Saint-Véran La Cour des Bois is made with fruit from 70 to 80-year-old vines at the very southern end of the appellation near the village of Chânes, in Saint-Véran. This is an unusual site for the southern Mâconnais, being the remnants of a ridge of an ancient riverbed. La Cour des Bois is a small plateau with ancient alluvial soil and rolled galets. These soils are acidic sandy loam, with a very acidic clay base. This particular terroir gives the wine an airy, fresh, crisp quality, which are qualities Marcel seeks to emphasize.
Pouilly-Loché Le Bourg comes from a tiny enclosed parcel of 75-year-old vines from a site, in the village of Loché, known for heavy clay calcareous soils that give wines substance and grip. Over time, soils tend to lose their calcareous elements as they dissolve. In some extreme cases, the soils become nearly pure, insoluble clay. This is the case in Le Bourg, a vineyard site that Marcel Couturier owns as a monopole. The 75-year-old vines here are afflicted with court-noué, a degenerative disease that doesn’t kill the vines but does weaken them. This results in very low yields (45-50 hl/ha) and smaller grapes, which in turn produce a structured, concentrated wine with an outsized flavor impact and ability to age in bottle.
Pouilly-Loché Vieilles Vignes is a unique, limited cuvée from Marcel’s oldest vines averaging 90 years, from around the village of Loché. This is a concentrated cuvée, only made in exceptional vintages with exceptional age-ability.
Marcel also owns 0.5ha in the famed Clos Reyssié vineyard in the village of Chaintré, one of four villages which comprise Pouilly-Fuissé. His family has an intimate relationship with this vineyard, beginning with his great-grandfather having drawn the map for the original boundaries. Clos Reyssié is a large lieu-dit of about 8 hectares within Pouilly-Fuissé. East-facing, on a gently sloping hillside that is exposed to the rising sun, Clos Reyssié has deep, clay-rich soil with more rocks at the top of the slope. One of just 12 producers who work parcels in the vineyard, his lies towards the lower part of the slope, which is beneficial as many of the heavier clay elements gets washed from the top. The eastern-facing aspect of the slope, along with the cooling influence of the clay, combine to allow the wine to keep a certain freshness, yielding wines that are rich and structured without being heavy or aromatically blowsy.
Marcel’s son Auxence is now working with him in both the vineyards and in the winery. Auxence is also passionate about low-intervention, organic wines and his energy will be a part of the winery’s evolution over the next decade. Up until now, all of the work in the vineyards and cellar have been done solo by the hard-working Marcel. With the addition of Auxence, the winery has grown to a staff of two, ensuring the same exacting qualitative standards are upheld for years to come.