About this WINE
Domaine Francois Cotat, Chavignol
Francois Cotat produces idiosyncratic, complex and ageworthy Sancerres from his tiny 3 hectare estate at the heart of the prized Chavignol commune which lies on Kimmeridgian clay and Caillotte soils.
Such is the steepness of the slopes (in the vineyards of Les Monts Damnés, Le Cul de Beaujeu and La Grande Côte) that cultivation is arduous and must be done entirely by hand. The grapes are late-picked for maximum flavour and in the winery, François adopts a very traditional, non-interventionist approach, barrel-fermenting the juice in old demi-muids using natural yeasts.
At times, François' wines have had to be declassified to "simple" Vin de Table status due to a higher level of residual sugar or alcohol than the appellation's rules permit or simply because the local committee find them too atypical.
François racks according to the phases of the moon and the wines develop with age and, in the best vintages, can be cellared for more than 50 years.
While Pouilly-Fumé's vineyards are tightly clustered and homogeneous, Sancerre's 14 communes (including the great villages of Chavignol, Bué, Verdigny, Amigny and Ménétréol) are widely dispersed, covering nearly 3,000 hectares over vertiginous valleys at up to 350 metres above sea level, and three distinct soil types: silex, a white flint found around Sancerre and Ménétréol in particular, giving perfume and a fine structure; terres blanches, a calcareous clay soil that whitens as it dries (widely distributed), delivering a full, fruity richness; and caillottes, a Portlandian soil brimming with large limestones imparting both power and verve – as found in Sancerre, Chavignol and Bué.
A fourth soil type, griottes, tightly-packed with small limestones, has also been identified – as found near the village of Vosges. Kimmeridgean clay crops up less consistently than in Pouilly-Fumé and since most Sancerre, bar the single-vineyard wines, are a blend of soils the result is a richer, fuller and fleshier Sauvignon Blanc.
As with Pouilly-Fumé, an increasing number of (single-vineyard) wines are being raised in French oak, mostly 500-litre and demi-muids; little surprise in light of naturally higher alcohol levels due to global warming. Sancerre Rouge is also made from Pinot Noir, the quality of which is often compromised by bleeding some of the juice to make rosé – Vincent Pinard is a master nonetheless.
Top vineyards include: Les Monts Damnés, La Grande Côte, Le Cul de Beaujeu, Grand (and Petit) Chemarin, Chêne Marchand
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.