Sancerre AOC Status Denied to Top Producer Frangois Cotat
What's in a name, anyway? Not much, apparently, for one of the Loire Valley's top producers. Frangois Cotat, whose domaine makes some of the region's top Sancerres, has been denied the Sancerre appellation for his 1998 wines.
The Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, the agency that oversees France's appellation contrtlie regulations, analyzed Cotat's wines. "The results showed too much residual sugar, so they were refused," said Cotat. "We then decided not to present them a second time."
Instead, Cotat's cuvies -- Les Culs de Beaujeu, Les Monts Damnis and La Grande Ctte -- will carry just the vin de table designation, even though they are 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc from within the Sancerre appellation.
Jean-Michel Passal, head of the INAO-Sancerre, defended the organization's decision. "Cotat didn't want to present his wines, as they did not adhere to the character of dry white wines," he said. "This decision happened in two stages: Firstly, they presented the wines, but they were not approved, as they were above the maximum degree level [of alcohol] for the appellation, which is 13 degrees. He then wrote back to us saying that he did not wish to represent his wines under the appellation label."
Passal said that the INAO will sometimes approve an AOC designation for a wine that exceeds the maximum allowable alcohol level if the agency is notified by the winemaker early in the vinification process. However, Cotat, who allows his fermentations to run their course without any manipulation on his part, simply submitted the wines for AOC review after they were finished.
The residual sugar was found by the INAO analysis, but "the wines were never tasted by the AOC panel, which we didn't really appreciate," said Cotat. "I think that certain people may have been jealous, as most of the decision-making is done by other wine producers. Our wine is a little more supple than the average Sancerre."
Wine Spectator tasted Cotat's '98s, and they are indeed a touch on the sweet side, but they still have the acidity expected of Sauvignon Blanc and are well-balanced. Les Culs de Beaujeu ($15) scored 92 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, La Grande Ctte ($17) earned 91 points, and Les Monts Damnis ($15) rated 88 points. (Full tasting notes are scheduled to run in the June 15 issue.)
Cotat, who took over the domaine from his father, Paul, in 1998, said that his not-yet-released 1999 wines have been approved for the Sancerre AOC.
Check out recent ratings of Frangois Cotat and Paul Cotat wines.