Monday, July 5, 2021

For the Love of Bourgogne Aligoté

Having long played a second fiddle to Chardonnay, Bourgogne’s other white grape, Aligoté, is finally getting its due! As winemakers and growers help realize its potential by giving it more attention and care in the vineyard and cellar, the spectrum of styles available of this incredibly terroir-expressive wine grows wider: Bourgogne Aligoté brims with mouthwatering acidity and salinity as well as a nose driven by green apple, peach, lemon, and white flowers, yielding expressions that can range from light and refreshing to rich and age-worthy.

Although the Aligoté grape represents less than 6 percent of Bourgogne's total vineyard planting, it has a long history in the region. It has been grown in Bourgogne since the 17th century and furthermore, the Bourgogne Aligoté appellation was created 84 years ago this July (1937).  The appellation is a regional AOC, which means that the wines can be produced throughout the Bourgogne region. However, it most prolific within the Côte Chalonnaise -- in the heart of Bourgogne -- and in particular in Bouzeron, in the northern Côte Chalonnaise. 

DNA profiling shows that Aligoté is a member of the wider Pinot family, the same as with Chardonnay. It is an early-ripening variety, is more frost-resistant than its more renowned cousins, and thus planted in cooler sites. Bourgogne Aligoté wines are generally made in stainless steel and are crisp and fresh in style, with relatively high acidity, even after undergoing complete malolactic fermentation. 

During a recent For the Love of Bourgogne Aligoté Twitter tasting hosted by Christy Canterbury, we received and reviewed four Bourgogne Aligoté wines that revealed the floral, citrus, mineral, and refreshing characters of these wines. These wines also offer great value and carry an unexpected weightiness and depth. 

Bourgogne Aligoté Buissonnier Vignerons de Buxy ($19)
Their parcels of Bourgogne Aligoté are located mainly between Buxy and Saint-Gengoux-le-National (Bouzeron) with the grapes planted in calcareous soil covered with scree and rock. The wine is made entirely in stainless steel vats allowing the grape's characters to shine. This wine has a traditional Bourgogne Aligoté profile: white stone fruit, some citrus, real butter, minerality and excellent acids. 

Bourgogne Aligoté Olivier Leflaive 2018 ($27)
The grapes for this wine were also grown in calcareous clay within Puligny and Corpeau in the Côte-d'Or, and not in the Côte Chalonnaise, and using biodynamic methods. The wine was aged primarily in stainless steel with 15% in oak. This helps develop a delicious buttery texture aligning with minerality, soft tropical fruit, and refreshing acids.

Bourgogne Aligoté Marcel Giraudon 2019 ($22)
This wine is another example of the broader Bourgogne Aligoté AOC as the estate is located in Chitry-Le-Fort - near the town of Chablis and part of the Auxerre district. The Giraudon family has been farming and making wine in Chitry for centuries, and the current proprietor, Marcel Giraudon, follows very traditional methods in his work. Their vineyards are on hillsides of Kimmeridgian chalky marl as one finds in Grand Cru Chablis.  This wine was fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel and starts with a light grassy hay and citrus aroma. This then leads to a full mouthfeel, lemons and peaches, creamy texture, and refreshing acidity. 

Bourgogne Aligoté Domaine Chevrot 2019 ($22)
This estate is located in the village of Cheilly-lès-Maranges in the Côte du Nuit, just north of Côte Chalonnaise. Some of the vines were planted 75 years ago, with an average age of 30 years, in limestone soils. The Domaine itself was established in 1830 with the current family generation opting for organic farming in 2008. This is another all stainless steel wine - although with approximately 13 months aging in the vats. It is a fantastic wine with a tropical nose and a creamy, saline, wet rock interior. 

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