The elusive François Cotat produces some of the best white wines in France and in my opinion the very best wines in Sancerre. Yes they are idiosyncratic and that can cost them the appellation on occasion but that matters not as the lucky customers who collect these brilliant wines are buying Cotat not the appellation such is the respect for the work done here.
The Cotat family has tended both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir on the slopes of the Monts Damnés in Chavignol 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, François and Pascal, respectively. Today there are two Cotat domaines — one in Chavignol, headed by François, and one in Sancerre, run by Pascal. What sets these cousins apart is less important than what they share—a passion for natural winemaking and a truly amazing touch with Sauvignon Blanc.
Now François looks after the three hectares that belonged to his father, while his cousin Pascal has 2.5 hectares. François has vines on La Grande Côte, the Cul de Beaujeu and the Mont Damnés on very steep clay-limestone slopes around Chavignol. He also has a parcel of younger vines on the caillottes between Chavignol and Sancerre on lower, more gently sloping land. The caillottes is pure limestone with little or no soil. François made his first vintage from these vines in 2005. There are 8000 vines per hectare – higher than the more normal average of 6500 vines per hectare – with an average yield of 60 hl/ha. François uses the natural yeasts, no debourbage, no sulphur during fermentation and only one battonage after the fermentation has finished.
François uses organic fertilisers and racks according to the phases of the moon. The wines develop with age and, in the best vintages, can be cellared for more than 50 years.