Marcel Couturier

(mahr-sehl koo-tu-ryeh) | Mâconnais – Burgundy

  • Cru Mâconnais, estate-fruit
  • Meticulous, certified organic farming

  • 70+ year old chardonnay vines

  • Non-interventionist winemaking

  • Spontaneous fermentation with natural yeast, minimal sulfur wines

Marcel Couturier comes from a long line of vignerons in the southern Mâconnais,

where he is just one of four producers estate bottling in Mâcon-Loché. Working his family’s old chardonnay vines, he began estate-bottling in 2005 and has quickly made a name for himself throughout France. Marcel likes to take his time, working intuitively, with respect for each terroir and resulting wine. Descending from many generations of farmers in the Mâconnais, he is patient in the vineyard and the cellar, allowing time for each wine to reveal itself. Marcel stands out as a traditionalist with his old vines and high standards in an area that is quickly defining itself as a source of top-notch white Burgundy. 

In total, Marcel farms 11 hectares of chardonnay vineyards  in multiple appellations: Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Loché, Saint-Véran, Mâcon-Loché, Mâcon-Vinzelles, and Mâcon Blanc. Most of his vines are quite old, with many parcels exceeding 70 years of age and his “young” vines averaging 30 years in age.

His farming is meticulous, employing only certified-organic and biodynamic (pending biodynamic certification in 2021) methods; he plows the soil to curtail weeds and believes the hard, poor clay soils greatly benefit from the aeration and the introduction of native organic materials. His farming style could be described as regenerative in that he has taken great care to improve the soil in each of the vineyards he farms. Being a traditional farmer, Marcel lets his chickens, geese, and guinea fowl roam the vineyards for natural pest control and to add valuable nitrogen to the poor Burgundian soils. As the summers become warmer, Marcel keeps pushing his harvest dates earlier to maintain freshness and liveliness in the wine.

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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. 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 barrel, they are basically left alone from that point until they are bottled. The wines ferment and age in the same barrels without racking and bâtonnage, 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. Only the necessary amount of sulfur dioxide is added.

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 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.

Marcel’s Pouilly-Loché comes from east-facing parcels with over 35-year-old chardonnay vines near the village of Loché. The vineyards are known for heavy clay calcareous soils, which give wines of substance, grip, and longevity. Marcel’s wines from Pouilly-Loché are structured and serious, architectural and firm.

Pouilly-Loché Le Bourg comes from a tiny enclosed parcel of 75-year-old vines from a site in the village of Loché. 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 affliction results in very low yields (45-50 hl/ha) and smaller grapes, which produces 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 old, from around the village of Loché. This is a concentrated cuvée, only made in exceptional vintages with exceptional ageability.

Marcel also owns 0.5ha in the famed Clos Reyssié vineyard in the village of Chaintré, one of four villages that comprise Pouilly-Fuissé. His family has an intimate relationship with this vineyard, beginning with his great-grandfather drawing the map for the original boundaries. Clos Reyssié is a large lieu-dit of about eight 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 get 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 quality standards are upheld for years to come.