Light gold in the glass this wine has an alluring nose of wet slate, chalk, smoke, and a faint hint of fruit that most closely resembles white cherries. In the mouth it is silky and weighty -- much thicker than usual for a Sancerre -- with the lush body you expect from Chardonnay not from Sauvignon Blanc, but with enough acidity to avoid flabbiness. Flavors of lime, lime zest, and apples mix with a mineral undertone and a topcoat of light creaminess and nuttiness that lasts through a surprisingly long finish. This is Sancerre singing a very different tune. The damned mountains have made a wine with the stout stature of a Greco Roman wrestler that happens to be very light on his feet, or very swift on his rear, as the case may be. Unique and outstanding, and apparently (no personal experience here) these wines have incredible aging potential.
From gear head, to grape man. While Pascal Cotat’s first passion may have been restoring old cars, wineespecially his family’s Sauvignon Blancwas a fast second.
No one can doubt that winemaking runs in the blood of the Cotat family. On the slopes of the Monts Damnes in Chavignol, the family has tended both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir since the end of the second World War. It was only in the 1990s when two brothers, Paul and Francis, handed over the family domaine to their sons, Francois and Pascal, respectively. Today there are two Cotat domainesone in Chavignol, headed by Francois, and one in Sancerre, run by Pascal. What sets these cousins apart is less important than what they sharea passion for natural winemaking and a truly amazing touch with Sauvignon Blanc.
Pascal believes in natural winemakingthe vast majority of his plots are cared for organically, often combining seaweed and other natural preparations to fertilize his vines. Harvest is never rushed; in fact, Pascal (as does his cousin Francois) harvests more than a week after every other winery in the region. Needless to say, extra maturity on the vine means extra body and complexity in the wine. Vineyards are located on very steep slopes, requiring a hand harvest that has become a bit of a pilgrimage for Cotat devotees. The steepest plots can only be worked by sliding down with a cushion tied to your rear while you hold the bucket in front of you. The cousins invented this amusing system, and pickers come from all over Europe every year to volunteer for the harvest.
Grapes from each vineyard plot are vinified separately. The Cotat family pioneered single-vineyard bottlings in Sancerre, and each terroirwhether “Les Monts Damnes or “Grande Cotehas its own unique personality. Soils share the same chalky heart as do those in Chablis. In general Pascal wines show a more luxurious, plush mouthfeel in combination with this balanced acidity. (Francois wines, in comparison, often show more flinty, Chablis-like notes.) Wines are always bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Cotats wines truly benefit from age. While these wines are irresistible when they are young, one of the unique pleasures of putting down a few bottles is to later discover a rich, custard-like Sancerre that defies everything you would expect from racy Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.