Domaine François Cotat, Sancerre La Grande Côte

Domaine François Cotat, Sancerre La Grande Côte, 2016

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  • icon-grapevariety Grape variety
    Sauvignon Blanc 100%

"…I shook my head in wonderment as to why so few Sancerre producers made wines such as these…" - Wine Advocate

Cotat Sancerre is simply some of the most singular Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Like his cousin Pascal, François Cotat (with his winery in Chavignol) crafts uncanny wines that defy both time and definition. These are wines that can age for decades, marrying richness with a laser-like cut and energy.

The Cotat family has tended grapes on the slopes of Chavignol since the end of World War II; it was in the 1990s when the two Cotat brothers, Paul and Francis, handed over the family domaineto their sons, François and Pascal, respectively.

François Cotat as a rule harvests by hand and late, as pushing ripeness to the extreme is one element that gives his wines their weighty texture and complexity.

About Domaine François Cotat

Domaine Francois Cotat produces idiosyncratic, complex and age worthy 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.

Grape variety
Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French words sauvage ("wild") and Blanc ("white") due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is possibly a descendant of Savagnin. Sauvignon Blanc is planted in many of the world's wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Romania, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bulgaria, the states of Washington and California in the US. Some New World Sauvignon Blancs, particularly from California, may also be called "Fumé Blanc", a marketing term coined by Robert Mondavi in reference to Pouilly-Fumé.

Depending on the climate, the flavour can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. In cooler climates, the grape has a tendency to produce wines with noticeable acidity and "green flavours" of grass, green bell peppers and nettles with some tropical fruit (such as passion fruit) and floral (such as elderflower) notes. In warmer climates, it can develop more tropical fruit notes but risks losing much aroma from over-ripeness, leaving only slight grapefruit and tree fruit (such as peach) notes.

Wine experts have used the phrase "crisp, elegant, and fresh" as a favourable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi.

Along with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screw-cap in commercial quantities, especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging, as varietal Sauvignon Blancs tend to develop vegetal aromas reminiscent of peas and asparagus with extended aging. Dry and sweet white Bordeaux, including oak-aged examples from Pessac-Léognan and Graves, as well as some Loire wines from Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are some of the few examples of Sauvignon Blancs with aging potential

Winemakers in New Zealand and Chile harvest the grapes at various intervals for the different blending characteristics that the grape can impart depending on its ripeness levels. At its most unripe stage, the grape is high in malic acid. As it progresses further towards ripeness the grape develops red & green pepper flavours and eventually achieves a balance of sugars. The flavours characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc come from the chemicals methoxypyrazines. Grapes grown in Marlborough's Wairau Valley may exhibit different levels of ripeness over the vineyard, caused by slight unevenness in the land and giving a similar flavour profile to the resulting wine.

Sauvignon Blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking process. One decision is the amount of contact that the must has with the skins of the grape. In the early years of the New Zealand wine industry, there were no wineries in the South Island, which meant that freshly harvested grapes had to be trucked and then ferried to the North Island, often all the way up to Auckland. This allowed for prolonged exposure of the skins and juice which sharpened the intensity and pungency of the wine. Some winemakers, like the Loire, intentionally leave a small amount of must to spend some time in contact with the skin for later blending purposes. Other winemakers, like in California, generally avoid any contact with the skin due to the reduced aging ability of the resulting wine.

Another important decision is the temperature of fermentation. French winemakers prefer warmer fermentations (around 16-18 °C) that bring out the mineral flavours in the wine while New World winemakers prefer slightly colder temperatures to bring out more fruit and tropical flavours. A small minority of Loire winemakers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation, a practice more often associated with New Zealand wines. Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with the oak rounding out the flavours and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape. Some winemakers, like those in New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation tanks over barrels with the intention of maintaining the sharp focus and flavour intensity.

Alternative Names: Fumé Blanc, Sauvignon Bianco, Muskat-Silvaner, Muskat-Sylvaner

About Sancerre

Sancerre is a small wine district in central France, famous for its crisp, aromatic white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. It is also known for its high-quality goat cheeses, which are an excellent match for the local wine. The vineyards here surround the eponymous town, which sits atop a bean-shaped hill overlooking the river Loire (see Loire Valley).

The classic Sancerre wine is white, bracingly acidic, and has pungent aromas of gooseberries, grass, nettles, and a hint of stony minerality. Richer, riper examples – particularly those from warmer, west-facing sites with chalky soils – often show fruitier notes of passionfruit and lemon peel. Sancerre is typically less "obvious" than the most famous New World styles of Sauvignon Blanc; less grassy than those from Marlborough and less overtly citrussy than those from CasaBlanca.

It is only since the mid-20th Century, and the creation of a protected Sancerre appellation, that the town's name has been so strongly associated with white wines. Prior to this, the district was better known for its light-bodied reds. Today, red Sancerre Rouge – made exclusively from Pinot Noir – accounts for less than 20 percent of the district's annual production.

Until phylloxera wiped out vast tracts of vineyard in the 1860s, the vineyards here were planted mostly with red-wine varieties, such as Gamay and Pinot Noir. White wines were in the minority, and were made not from Sauvignon but from Chasselas. When the solution to the phylloxera epidemic was identified (grafting European vines onto American rootstocks) Sauvignon Blanc vines proved more responsive than these other varieties. Thus Sauvignon came to be Sancerre's most widely planted variety – a development without which the district and its wines would probably not be as famous as they are today. Small quantities of Chasselas are still grown in the area, mostly on the opposite side of the Loire, around Pouilly-sur-Loire.

Sancerre is located at the very eastern edge of Loire Valley's main vineyard area, hundreds of miles from the region's westernmost vineyards. It is in fact closer to the Côte d'Or in Burgundy than to the Loire's other key wine districts, Anjou and Touraine. Just 50 miles away lies Burgundy's northernmost district, Chablis, whose famous Kimmeridgian soils are also a feature of the terroir here in Sancerre.

Soil types are a point of pride for Sancerre's winegrowers. They are divided clearly into three main types: chalk, limestone-gravel and silex (flint). The latter is often given credit for the distinctive, smoky pierre à fusil (gunflint) aroma found in some Sauvignon from this part of the Loire Valley. The aroma is clear in some Sancerre wines – most obviously those from the eastern vineyards closer to the Loire. It is the reason behind Sauvignon's traditional pseudonym Blanc Fumé – which survives in the name of Sancerre's neighbour and rival, Pouilly-Fumé.

The Sancerre viticultural area covers a 15-mile stretch of rolling hills on the west bank of the Loire. Roughly 7000 acres (2800ha) of vines are now devoted to producing the appellation's wines, almost double the acreage when the Sancerre appellation was created in November 1936. The Loire Valley wine industry has endured significant economic hardship in the past decade (due to a combination of poor vintages and the increasingly competitive international wine market), but Sancerre has felt this pressure less keenly than other districts. Its strong historical reputation - coupled with the appeal of its wine style to modern wine consumers - has allowed Sancerre to retain its status as the Loire Valley's "king of the hill".

Regular price $476.00

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