Francois Cotat’s estate in Chavignol in the Loire Valley is small in size, but huge in terms of reputation.
The wines produced from this vineyard are atypical for the region, which only helps to increase their notoriety.
Francois Cotat’s estate has earned a reputation without all the trappings of the modern age. His vineyard has no website, he does very little, if any, self-promotion, and there are even times his wines do not earn the appellation for his region. However, none of that seems to bother Cotat, as he continues to do what he loves in the town of Chavignol; making wine, allowing the quality of his wines to speak for themselves.
Chavignol, where Cotat’s estate is based, seems to need as little marketing as the fantastic wines that originate there. A small hamlet in Sancerre, Chavignol is quiet, peaceful, with breathtaking views. It is particularly famous for the type of goat cheese that comes from the area, Crottin de Chavignol. Chavignol is, in a word, a picturesque French town, so it’s no wonder that one of the most unique estates in the region is based there.
The vineyard itself dates back to 1947, when his father Paul began producing wines in Chavignol, alongside his brother Francis. The two Cotat brothers would produce a single cuvee for each of their designated wines in the same cellar, but would bottle the wines under two separate labels.
When Paul and Francis retired, they passed their vineyard onto their sons. Francois and his cousin Pascal now have their own separate wineries: Francois’ in Chavignol, and Pascal’s in Sancerre. However, they continue to follow the traditional methods of wine production established by their fathers.
Francois Cotat’s vineyard is small, covering just three hectares. One third of this space is dedicated to growing Pinot Noir grapes, from which he produces a rosé wine, but the rest and vast majority is represented by Sauvignon Blanc.
One of the aspects that makes Cotat’s wines so notable is the terroir of the region. His estate sits on what is essentially a chalk plateau, with clay and limestone soils. Grape vines are notorious for being able to thrive on poor soil, but these differences in soilquality truly benefit the wines that come from them.
His vineyard also sits on steep hillsides with little topsoil, causing the roots of the vines to go deep into the earth in order to find purchase and grow properly.
Everything on this estate is done in the traditional way and following organic principles, though Cotat’s vineyards are not organically certified. Harvesting grapes by hand late in the season when they are very ripe, also helps to contribute to the wine’s unique flavour and characteristics.
Cotat’s philosophy when it comes to wine production is to intervene as little as possible, letting the wines develop more or less on their own. The wines are fermented and matured in oak barrels with natural yeasts, and are not cold-settled, fined, or filtered. Bottling is done in accordance with the phases of the moon.
In some years, the Francois Cotat has been denied the appellation due to residual sugars or higher levels of alcohol in the wines, as well as to the fact that the local council sometimes considers the wines to be too atypical of the region to earn the appellation. Therefore, there are some years of Francois Cotat’s wines that are simply called Vin de Table or Vin de France instead of official Sancerre wines. However, this does not seem to bother Cotat and he continues to make his wines according to how he sees fit. Devotees of his wines appreciate this quality of his, making his wines ever more popular.
Wines from Francois Cotat are very different from standard Sancerre wines, but this is part of what makes them so popular. They typically have a high minerality, acidity and fruit flavours.
From this producer, we have selected for you the 2012 Francois Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnes.