One of the world’s greatest individual sites for Sauvignon Blanc is Sancerre’s “Les Monts Damnés,” a severely steep vineyard with vines clinging to ancient maritime fossils buried within chalk-limestone soils. Made famous by the Cotat family, this exceptional parcel and the complex, intensely concentrated, age-worthy wine produced from it is second to none. Critic Robert Parker dubbed them “some of the finest Sauvignon Blancs I have ever put to my lips,” and I couldn’t agree more—especially when considering that culty Dagueneau bottles a “Monts Damnés” for triple the price. Bottom line: I’m taking Cotat every. single. time.
In my opinion, a wine of this magnitude deserves to be aged and cherished because serious Sauvignon Blanc stands alongside the greatest white wines of the world—that means Grand Cru white Burgundy, too! Vintage after vintage, Pascal Cotat delivers an explosive, mineral-etched Sauvignon Blanc at its most tightly allocated; it is, quite honestly, one of the greatest bullet-proof investments and wine collectibles one can acquire. Furthermore, Cotat’s newest 2018 release has managed the impossible by outdoing all of its predecessors in terms of weight, complexity, and power. This is for the unflinching, the bold, and anyone who considers themselves a savvy wine drinker. As always, our excruciatingly limited quantities will disappear in an instant.
Originating in the 1940s, the Cotat family domaine was passed from brothers Paul and Francis to their respective sons, François and Pascal, in the 1990s. Dedicated to the unique terroir of each site, the Cotats were among the first winemakers to vinify and produce single-vineyard bottlings in Sancerre, but the cousins eventually created two separate labels due to tedious government regulations. While François stayed put in Chavignol, his cousin charted the path for Domaine Pascal Cotat in Sancerre and built a separate winery.
Within the village of Chavignol (within Sancerre), Les Monts Damnés, or “damned mountains,” is the name of a series of steeply pitched vines the Cotat family has farmed for 75 years and counting. The cursed vineyard name is apropos given that the Cotats, by necessity, invented a system in which harvesters strap cushions to their rear ends to slide down the steep slopes. This wine is sourced from the highest parcels on the north-facing slope of this famous vineyard, which is distinguished by its subsoils of pure chalk—the same, gleaming white terres blanches found in Chablis. Left behind from ancient seabeds over 150 million years ago, this special soil offers a distinct, intense minerality that is entirely its own.
Cotat’s vines on Les Monts Damnés average about 35 years of age, and few winemakers can rival Pascal’s talent and dedication in the cellar—even fewer, if any, have the restraint to match his skilled late harvests. He’s known for hand harvesting roughly a week later than others in the area, and as a result, his wines possess greater weight, ripeness, and complexity. In 2018, grapes were gently sent through a pneumatic press in whole bunches and the juice fermented on indigenous yeasts in old demi-muids (large oak barrels). It was then transferred into even older and larger tonneaux for roughly one year. Bottling occurred without fining or filtration.
Of all the annual allocations we’re allowed, Pascal Cotat’s “Les Monts Damnés” never ceases to get old, and this 2018 is beyond thrilling. There is so much packed-in flavor that begins announcing itself after 30 minutes in a decanter: You can expect a dazzling array of passionfruit, gooseberry, honeysuckle, acacia, powdered chalk, oyster shell, melon peel, damp herbs, Kaffir lime, white peach skin, ripe yellow apples, and a dramatic impression of crushed minerals. The flashy, full-bodied palate is a hyper-sensory display of Moonraker laser beams that serve to both electrify your tastebuds and enhance the lush, tropical/citrus fruits and vibrating minerality that follows. It exudes the classic richness and razor-sharp mineral precision that has made Cotat famous, but there undoubtedly is an additional dimensional of richness and depth to this 2018. As always, you’ll find that with proper age “Les Monts Damnés” undergoes one of the most striking changes in all of white wine, starting a major transition around its fifth birthday and settling down around year 10-15. Still, you MUST open a bottle now—with a bit of air, it’s an unforgettable, luxurious treat. Further, its high acid is begging to slice through chèvre, so visit your local artisan cheese shop and load up!
Sancerre / Les Monts Damnés Vineyard
Sauvignon Blanc 100%
Large Neutral French