Frighteningly sulphurous Sancerre and fully mature Puligny – final words and a poll

Beyond Sancerre, I don’t have much time for pure Sauvignon Blanc. Beyond Crochet’s sometimes refreshing, sometimes downright bonkers offerings and Jean-Laurent Vacheron’s ambrosial, intellect-engaging, drool-provoking wines I really don’t have that much time for Sancerre either. But then, there is Cotat. He wants you to age his wine, which is not a commonly held view in this appellation nor one often associated with this grape. As I still wake up screaming and clutching my sweat soaked teddy bear when I recall the vomit-inducing experience of Christ Church of Oxford deciding to subject students undeserving of such cruel and unusual punishment to the horror of some repellently over-ripe, disgustingly oaked Australian Sauvignon Blanc that only screaming insanity could have accounted for them choosing to age for over ten years I’m normally pretty decided on this matter. Cotat, however, is a different beast – when they are old they do hold interest but can be awkward before they reach maturity.

On an entirely different note, I find the stark nature of Cotat’s labels and the colour of his bottles together with the little blob of wax on top to be a bit of a treat for the design-aware drinker. Naturally, such things matter not a tinker’s cuss if the wine is bloody awful, but at least he made the effort.

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Sancerre ‘La Grande Cote’ 2004, Francois Cotat

I’m told by my chums in the Loire that sulphur is varietal character for Chenin Blanc, if so then this smells like the most intense bottle of Vouvray ever made. I’m rarely bothered by sulphur, but the epic quantity showing on this nose is more than a tad distracting. Does M. Cotat have a brother in the preservative trade or was there some tax-dodge associated with buying sulphur in 2004? There are suggestions of fruit of a quince-like character and tinges of complex minerality, but the basic character of this nose is staggeringly volcanic. So is the palate. Yikes, it is bitchingly acidic too, but that sulphur blows all else away. I’ll tell you what: now I’ve poured a couple of glasses I’ll give this wine a really vigorous shake and stick it somewhere coolish to give it a chance to breathe and blow off some of the staggering amount of sulphur its showing. I’ll come back and tell you more about it in a few hours. Who needs sleep when there are wines to be given a chance to show their best? This means I need to pull something out of the wine fridge to drink whilst I wait, so we move on to:

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Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Pucelles 2001, Domaine Leflaive

I worry when I see white Burgundy this dark in colour. Phew, the nose seems mature but not shagged out – there is that baked apple oxidative aroma but still life and freshness to the lemon fruit. It is compellingly complex as well, with the manifest class of the vineyard shining through unimpeded by any needless farting around by the winemaker. As I am swirling it the oxidation seems less of an issue and the wonderful sophistication of a really serious Puligny Premier Cru announces itself with unabashed confidence. Good weight to the palate but it is also taut and lithe with great acidity and a brilliant expression of stoniness which lifts it to a higher plain of enjoyable experience than all but the very best Chardonnays can manage. Yeah, there is one hell of a lot of pleasure here and it be-sports itself ostentatiously so even if one were giving this scant attention, and it deserves so much more than that, you’d still be delighted. New oak, alcohol levels and such do not announce themselves as primary characters here, this is a superlatively swish bottle of Puligny that delivers all one could ask of that designation with suave, refined self-assurance. Drink up and enjoy.

So two hours down the line we return to:

Sancerre ‘La Grande Cote’ 2004, Francois Cotat

This is still far from a typical SB nose and there is clearly a tectonic plate puncturing-load of sulphur here. Perhaps there a hint of greengage fruit? No, not really, there is sulphur on the nose and sulphur with tooth-fizzing acidity on the palate. Utterly unyielding. Since I have the opportunity I’m willing to give this wine an opportunity to shine, so I’ll shake it up again and come back to it in 12 hours at lunchtime. I feel for those who purchased this in the Wine Society sale and have opened it to drink with a meal in order to experience the much-praised ability of this winemaker – popping and instantly drinking it at the moment is a taxing and pleasure-bereft experience. I’ll add to this note later. Nighty night!

OK, it is now 18 hours since popping this bottle and there has been a truly enthusiastic amount of bottle shaking going on during this period. I think I can detect a hint of mango-ish fruit, but it is dried and mind-buggeringly sulphured mangoes I’m smelling. The nose, if I am honest, is still totally impenetrable. The palate still has the lash of frightening acidity, perhaps a suggestion of stoniness and the dominating flavour of Vulcan’s forge. It is so much tighter than even the deepest diving of duck’s arses that it just cannot be judged. Which allows me to have a brilliant Elitistreview poll!