Aligoté is the second white grape of Burgundy, with a reputation that has long been eclipsed by that of Chardonnay. However, its reputation of only producing simple, lean and acid driven wines is beginning to change with the advancement of technology and know-how in the vineyards, not to mention climate change, providing growers an opportunity to coax more out of the grape by using better clones, more careful handling, and more consistently ripe vintages.
In the hands of Domaines Michel Lafarge and A&P de Villaine, Aligoté has begun to show it’s more intriguing side. These important domaines have chosen to take their old Aligoté vineyards and treat them with the care they deserve, rather than rip them out to plant the more profitable varieties of Burgundy. Their embracing of the ancient variety and serious treatment of its juice yields wines that are so much more than the acid bombs to use in cocktails in the old days. Aligoté’s flavors of peach, apple, citrus, flowers, and hints of herb compliment the mineral backbone of the grape giving it weight and character, giving a reason to pause in appreciation of the warm weather wine. Aligoté in these experts’ hands shows that the wines can actually age for a couple of years too, where they take on a little more richness in texture, tempering its acidity, and gain fleshiness on the fruit. Aligote is more pleasurable, more tactile, more nuanced, and interesting enough to enjoy on its own more now than it ever has been, and people are beginning to notice.
In fact, Aubert and Pamela de Villaine and their nephew Pierre de Benoist, who runs the domaine, have restored the village of Bouzeron in the Cote Chalonnaise to its rightful place of respect, being the only village AOP that grows Aligoté exclusively. It’s domaines like these that forge the path for young producers like Smith-Chapel to understand and try their hand at Aligoté and other forgotten varieties and embrace their potential when treated with newfound enthusiasm and know-how.
Enjoy Aligoté in all of its glory with fresh summery salads of rocket and berries or fresh and simply prepared seafood, and with creamy ripe cheeses like camembert or brie.