Aligoté, Burgundy’s Other Great White, Steps Into the Spotlight | Wine Enthusiast
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Aligoté, Burgundy’s Other Great White, Steps Into the Spotlight

Aligoté, often incorrectly regarded as the subtler iteration of Chardonnay, is a cross of Pinot Noir and the more obscure Gouais Blanc. With its historical roots tracing back to the 17th century, this variety flourished throughout Burgundy, including in the famed slopes of Corton, Musigny (blanc) and Chambertin. Despite being more recently uprooted in favor of Chardonnay, Aligoté once boasted over 400 clones, categorized into two primary variations: Aligoté Verte, distinguished by its green hue and herbaceousness, and Aligoté Doré, radiantly golden in hue with an array of ripe citrus and fennel nuances. These variants were often co-planted, making their differentiation challenging, particularly because if Verte is managed at lower yields and fully ripened, it presents similarly to Doré. Nonetheless, this native variety adeptly conveys the quality of its terroir, is resistant to oidium and produces less sugar but more acidity relative to Chardonnay.

The allure of Aligoté continues to grow. In fact, Meursault AOP, which inspired California Chardonnay, currently awaits INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) approval for a 10-year trial to potentially incorporate Aligoté in Meursault village or Bourgogne appellation wines, with no more than 10% added into the final blend, lowering alcohol but adding acidic verve and freshness.

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A vivid testament to the quality of wine this grape produces is the work of Les Aligoteurs–a collective of 68 members encompassing domaines and négociants throughout Burgundy. Formed in January of 2018 under the guidance of Philippe Delacourcelle, chef of Boisrouge, and in collaboration with winemakers Sylvain Pataille and Laurent Fournier, the group is steadfast in their commitment to elevating Aligoté’s quality and perception. Their focus extends particularly to key markets of emerging wine professionals, sommeliers and aficionados who crave purity and terroir expression. Despite Aligoté’s current modest share of 5% in the region’s vineyards, with no immediate anticipation of surge in production, their mission also encompasses the preservation of Aligoté plantings and an active commitment to research aimed at restoring diversity in clonal material.

“Many vineyards weren’t taken care of in the past,” says Aligoteur Pierre-Henri Rougeot. “But that’s what we try to do with Les Aligoteur…bring a new dynamic and say, ‘Take care of your Aligoté as you take care of your Chardonnay.’” Rougeot further explained the pivotal role of Aligoteurs rectifying market dynamics. Nearly 10-15 years ago, it was certain that winemakers were losing one euro per bottling of Aligoté; Chardonnay sold for up to five times more. Today, a bottle of Aligoté can fetch price points as high as premier cru Chardonnay, a testament to its comparative quality—its ability to celebrate the diversity of terroir, thoughtful vinification and aging potential. Aligoté is ready for a well-deserved return to the limelight.

This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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