Sancerre Les Mont Damnés, Chavignol 2010

Sancerre is one of the classic French wine regions which produces vibrant, aromatic, dry white wines from sauvignon blanc vinified in a manner which emphasises the purity and clarity of fruit flavours.

A common feature to the overwhelming majority of French wine labels is an absence of the grape varieties, in contrast to new world wines where the grape variety features prominently on the label. At the heart of the European wine ideal is the belief that the most important factors influencing a wine’s character are the soil, climate and culture of the area where the grape is grown. The idea is that Sancerre is more than just sauvignon blanc and the wines are imparted with a unique and distinctive character. This is especially important to single-vineyard wines in capturing the essence of a specific patch of land.

The featured Sancerre is a reflection of a single vineyard – ‘Les Monts Damnés’ from a single year’s growing season. Furthermore, note the differing font size of “Sancerre” and “Chavignol” on the label, and how the vigneron, François Cotat attaches greater emphasis the name of his local commune (Chavignol) within the Sancerre appellation. This is a man who has very well sited vineyards, and it shows in the excellence of his wines.

Sancerre typically starts at around £10 per bottle, so what does this £26 wine deliver? The expectation is often one of ‘much more of everything’, ‘bigger with more force’, which is not necessarily the case. It is increased intensity of flavour, complexity and in particular, it is the persistence of flavour which lingers on the palate which is a key quality factor. This is a wine which reveals subtleties and nuances over the course of the bottle rather than delivering an immediate upfront burst of flavour which then briskly fades away.

François Cotat’s style is a very restrained, reserved and mineral expression of Sauvignon Blanc. This is a Sancerre with depth, complexity, great texture and power, notable for its pin-point, focused purity of fruit flavour and perfumed aromas.

The “secret” is steep-sided vineyards, old vines, and years of experience. François adopts a very traditional, non-interventionist approach, barrel-fermenting the juice in old demi-muids using natural yeasts.

This wine is most definitely Chavignol first, Sancerre second and Sauvignon Blanc a distant third!

2010 Sancerre ‘Les Monts Damnés’ Domaine François Cotat £20 per bottle in bond.

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