- Sarah O'Kelley
Aligoté: the other white Burgundy
I’ve long been a bit obsessed with Aligoté (the other white grape of Burgundy!) And recently I set out to really compare and contrast a few that I came across.
But first a bit of history…DNA testing has shown that Aligoté is a member of the general Pinot family. (Chardonnay is also a member.) In the 19th century it was planted alongside Chardonnay throughout Burgundy. But when vineyards were replanted after an infestation of a vineyard pest (phylloxera) in the early 20th century, most vignerons decided to forego the Aligoté. This is certainly understandable as Chardonnay in Burgundy is majestic, but there is something to be said for Aligoté, and oftentimes it is considerably less expensive!
The trick is finding the good Aligoté! See, there are two strains: Aligoté Vert (green) and Aligoté Doré (golden.) The Aligoté Vert is vigorous, which translates to less interesting wines. Most quality producers focus on the Doré.
Site is also an interesting subject as throughout most of Burgundy you are not allowed to mention place but have to simply label your wine as “Bourgogne Aligoté.” A major exception to this rule is the village of Bouzeron in the Chalonnaise…enter Aubert de Villaine. He is a definite famous in Burgundy – heir and co-director of the iconic Domaine de La Romanée Conti. But his own domaine that he founded with his wife Pamela resides in Bouzeron (a more southerly village of Burgundy.)
The Villaine Aligoté was my first introduction to the grape, and I still consider it the queen bee. Whether it is Villaine’s prowess or the terroir of Bouzeron, this is most definitely a special wine. I recently tasted it next to an Aligoté from another classic Burgundy producer, Hubert Lignier. The Lignier Aligoté is from a parcel in the lauded village of Gevrey (a more northerly village of Burgundy.)
Both tasted of citrus and apples and insane minerality. But the Lignier was more linear and the Villaine more round. At first comparison, I preferred the opulence of the Villaine, but there was something so refreshing about the Lignier…both had their charms!
I also recently took home a bottle of Aligoté from one of my favorite Chablis producers, Patrick Piuze. Finding any site info for this wine proved a challenge but seems it is indeed from Chablis. It tasted more in line with Lignier – all about immense drinkability. It is also an outstanding price (under $30 retail.)
The Villaine has crept up in price over the years to almost $50 retail, but there is no questioning that it is an age-worthy wine. And when you compare that price to other age-worthy Burgundy it seems quite the deal!
As far as a food pairing for Aligoté, it is quite versatile. We had all of these with local seafood, but as the weather cools off a little bit (even in South Carolina), I would be tempted to go super French and roast a chicken on a Sunday! Or dare I mention that Aligoté would work beautifully with the Thanksgiving spread!
Bottom line: discover Aligoté!