From gear head, to grape man. While Pascal Cotat's first passion may have been restoring old cars, wine—especially his family's Sauvignon Blanc—was a fast second.
No one can doubt that winemaking runs in the blood of the Cotat family. On the slopes of the Monts Damnés 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, 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.
Pascal believes in natural winemaking—the 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 François) 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 terroir—whether “Les Monts Damnés” or “Grande Côte”—has 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. (François wines, in comparison, often show more flinty, Chablis-like notes.) Wines are always bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Cotat’s 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.