If a person knows nothing about the world of wine, they will still recognise the name Champagne. It’s equivalent to the name Hulk Hogan to non-wrestling fans of Michael Jordan for people who don’t follow basketball.
These are names that transcend their domain and become part of the popular culture to the point where they become popular culture. And in the case of Champagne, we have a name that has become a byword for luxury, prestige, quality, and celebration.
Of course, those of us who love wine already know this. And we also know that Champagne is one of the most strictly regulated wines in the world. To maintain its reputation, strict rules are put in place to ensure that only the best of the best emerge from the Champagne territory. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has led to many Champagne brands becoming among the largest in the wine industry.
This can give us the impression that Champagne is the wine of the elite. Certainly, the price tags attached to the more prestigious brand do little to dissuade us from this viewpoint. However, digging a little deeper into the list of producers who work with this wine show us that there are several who eschew the high price tags in favour of crafting quality Champagnes that are also accessible to the general public.
Vincent Couche is one such producer.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at a rather remarkable Champagne that has emerged from his winery. But before we do, let’s take a closer look at Vincent and his approach to crafting one of the most revered wines of modern times.
Vincent Couche is not the man to look to if you’re looking for the marketed version of Champagne. At least, that is the impression he’d like to give to the world. In talking about his work, Couche discusses how big money and major corporations govern the direction of much of the Champagne region, going so far as to talk about how this leads to chemical winemaking that risks making some Champagnes unrepresentative of the land that they come from.
We’re not necessarily sure that we agree with this argument, though it ironically serves well as a marketing statement in its own right. Vincent Couche seems to consider himself as something of a rebel in the Champagne region. But if we strip away all of the bluster, we see a man who’s whole dedicated to the concept of making wines that express the true heart and vigour of the land from which they come. He wants to move away from the idea that Champagne is little more than a luxury product and towards the concept that drives so many winemakers – that the wine is an artform produced with respect to the terroir.
For Couche, this means shunning the model that many larger Champagne producers follow. The idea of purchasing grapes from hundreds of smaller farmers across the region is anathema to him, and he takes great pride in both growing his own grapes and being the only person who uses them to create Champagnes that are an expression of the hard work he puts into his craft. For Couche, creating champagne is about more than mixing together Chardonnay and Pinot Nero. It’s about being present in production, from the moment the vines sprout to the moment the wine is poured into the bottle.
In fact, Couche is one of the trailblazers of a new wave of producers in the Champagne region, loosely known as The Grower’s Movement.
This is a movement where pride in the production process is emphasised over the branding and marketing attached to the name “Champagne”. It is a movement that values the production method, with Couche in particularly being a proponent of biodynamics as he believes the technique offers a truer representation of his land that the “chemical” winemaking we discussed earlier. For Couche, making a vintage of Champagne involves hand-picking his own grapes and using production methods that focus on nature over mass. And for over 20 years, he has taken pride in producing what he calls his “chemical-free wines”.
Today, Couche maintains 10 hectares of land, which are primarily planted with Pinot Noir. While this may be surprising to some, given that Chardonnay is the dominant grape in Champagne, it’s in Pinot Noir that we find the secret ingredient that helps a good bottle of Champagne stand out from its peers. Through his focus on Pinot Noir cultivation, Couche ensures only the highest-quality grapes enter his bottles.
Taste and touch are the key ingredients to his picking process, with manual picking being the order of the day. For Couche, introducing machinery to his vineyards would mean betraying everything that he stands for. And so, we have a little insight into the mind of a man who wants to bring nature back to a wine that he argues has somewhat fallen victim to the mass-market machine.
Again, we don’t necessarily know if we agree with Couche’s ideas about Champagne, though we certainly admire his passion for the wine that has made up such a crucial part of his life. And even if we don’t agree with his philosophy, we can certainly tell a great Champagne when we see it.
That’s exactly what the Vincent Couche Champagne Dosage Zero is.
A powerful and pure Champagne, the Vincent Couche Champagne Dosage Zero is intensity in a bottle. It’s vibrant yellow colouring seems to sparkle against the glass as you pour, with its enthusiastic plumage hinting at the wonderful experience you’re about to enjoy.
Introduce the wine to your nose and you’re confronted with seductive notes of green apple, dried fruits, and citrus. A little further exploration reveals a subtle note of freshly baked bread, making this wine a little more than it appears to be.
As for the taste?
Dry and offering mineral tones that bely the biodynamic production process, this wine is a true treat for anybody who cares to sample it. The Xtrawine team fell in love at first sip, which is why we gave it a rating of 92/100.