In a region dominated by big money and big business its easy to understand why chemical farming and chemical winemaking are so hard avoid. It’s easy to forget that the wines of Champagne come from the earth and not from a marketing director. Driving through the vineyards you can see why there are so many wines made here that all taste the same – because they are often luxury products, not handmade, artisanal wines . The earth in champagne is brown and grey and most of the “houses” are wine factories pumping out millions of bottles every year.
Most of these houses purchase grapes from hundreds of small farmers across the region, assigning them farming methods, sprays and specific yields required. In the last few years, some of these farmers have stopped selling of their beloved grapes to big Champagne wine factories and started making wines of their own. These growers have formed the basis of a new movement in Champagne: The Grower Movement.
Vincent Couche is part of this incredible movement. He is looking to express Terroir from each of his vineyards, farming his vines with care and attention and making wines without any additions. Vincent is obsessed with his vines and maintaining healthy soils in the vineyard, having practiced biodynamics since 1999. It took many years to nurture life back into his vineyards after years of farming for the big houses, but the Couche family has happily been farming chemical free for almost 20 years now, making incredible addition-free wines the entire time. This is Grower Champagne at its finest, with every step being done entirely by Vincent and his family.
The winery is located in the heart of the Cote Des Bar , where he has 13 hectares of vines. In Montgueux there are 3 hectares of Chardonnay planted on Chalky soils from the Cretaceous era with just 40 cm of soil above the chalk. In Buxeuil Vincent has another 10 hectares primarily planted to Pinot Noir. The soil here consists of clay-limestone and clayey marls, depending on the parcel. The planting density is high with around 10,100 vines per hectare in order to increase competition between them. These vineyards are mainly south and west facing on steep hillsides with the Seine lying below. This area enjoys its own microclimate with high temperatures and relatively good humidity thanks to the presence of the river near the vines.
Picking is by taste and touch, with harvests over a week after his neighbours at both sites. Because Vincent won’t chaptalize (add sugar to) the wines, his grapes need higher sugar levels and higher levels of ripeness than his peers. Champagne is a cold place and the cellars are deep so his natural fermentations take a long time, sometimes well into the spring after harvest. Wines are fermented and aged in oak without added yeast or nutrients and the wines don’t see any additions. All wines go through full malolactic fermentation. Everything in the winery is done by gravity, without pumps and all the wines are unfiltered with dosage (final sugar addition) kept to a minimum, if any is added at all. The Couche family has been Demeter certified since 2008. All of these low intervention winemaking decisions are made in order to express the Terroir of the land and express Vincent’s natural philosophy in the bottle.
Base wines from 2010 and 2011. 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. Vinification in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. 4g/L dosage.
Réserve Intemporelle Brut
Base wines from 2011 and 2012. 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Vinification in vats and oak barrels.. 0g/L dosage.
Chloé Brut (sans soufre)
Base wines for this wine come from Vincent’s solera he started in 2011. 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay. Vinification in oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. 0g/L dosage. No added sulphites.
Rose Desir Extra Brut
Base wines from 2011 and 2012. 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir grapes undergo carbonic maceration and are then bled off for fruit character. Vinification finished in oak vats and barrels. 5g/L dosage.
- Ellement Wines & Spirits
- Kenaston Wine Market
- Banville & Jones
- The Winehouse