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Long-lived is the operative word here. Patience is required to get the most out of the greatest terres blanches-sourced Sancerres, just as it is with a Dauvissat or Raveneau Chablis. But for those willing to wait, a top 15-year-old example can be one of the world’s most riveting wines.
While there is no official classification of Sancerre’s top terroirs, three of them—Chavignol’s Les Monts Damnés and Les Culs de Beaujeu and Amigny’s La Grande Côte—are widely considered “Grands Crus” of the appellation. And one of the Loire’s greatest estates—Domaine François Cotat—has ancient vines in all three.
Since the 1940s, the Cotat family has been selling wine under their own label, and as the torch was passed from the legendary Paul Cotat to his son François in the 1990s, little has changed—the practices are as classic as ever, resulting in the purest expressions possible of the domaine’s iconic sites.
Acting just as the generations that preceded him, François uses the méthode ancienne for the purest expression of this magical terroir: pruning his vines to half the yield of his neighbors, harvesting late for full ripeness, fermenting with the native yeasts, aging his wines in 50- to 150-year-old foudre and bottling without filtration.
Through these classic methods, François fashions wines that are prized as some of the richest, most complex and longest-lived wines of Sancerre.
François’ parcels in Les Monts Damnés and La Grande Côte are on nearly vertical, south-facing slopes of pure terre blanches, producing Sancerres of profound depth, complexity and laser-guided minerality. And the east through southeast exposure of Les Culs de Beaujeu yield a wine of great elegance and richness, but with the hidden structure that enables it to age just as long as its stablemates.
These three terres blanches—sourced wines are simply amazing in their ethereal complexity, their creamy textures leavened by bracing acidity and a minerality and aging potential that only the greatest Chablis grand crus possess.
The Cotat magic extends to two other, very different, cuvées as well—François’ Caillottes bottling and his peerless Chavignol Rosé, both of which come from his vines in Chavignol’s other great terroir, the caillottes. Time has turned the village’s Kimmeridgian chalk into two different soils—the Chablis-like terres blanches of the upper slopes, while erosion has weathered into the pebbly caillottes lower down.
This very poor, rocky soil produces a Sancerre blanc that may be more approachable earlier than Cotat’s other cuvées, but it is no less beautiful or pure in its expression. And now that the Caillottes vines have reached 15 to 20 years of age, it demands to be considered among the domaine’s most important wines.
Another Cotat parcel in the caillottes is planted to Pinot Noir, and this is the source of the domaine’s extraordinary rosé. While most rosés are simple thirst-quenchers, to drink as young as possible, Cotat’s is a very different story.
Between its ideal terroir and François time-honored methods, it is not only remarkably complex, but also eerily reminiscent of great Chablis in its chalky minerality and vast aging potential.
All five cuvées are, as View from the Cellar’s John Gilman has written, “ … reference point Sancerres, and in many ways stand alone at the pinnacle of the appellation.”
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