Aligoté | Third Grape of Burgundy
- Sits within the Pinot family alongside Chardonnay
- Large plantings in Bulgaria and Romania have a larger following than in France
- Other Names: Plant Gris, Blanc de Troyes, Vert Blanc, Chaudenet Gris, Giboudot Blanc, Griset Blanc
Aligoté has been grown in Burgundy since the 17th century, flourishing greatly among its two greater counterparts. Planted in the pockets on which there were no existing plots of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, these less expensive areas (such as plateaus and valleys) became the terroir in which Aligoté thrived. As it bloomed into existence as the third varietal of the region, it was granted its own AOC, Bourgogne Aligoté, in 1937.
Cousin to Chardonnay, a widely popular and prestigious varietal, Aligoté is a grape also getting its presence known in the heart of Burgundy, France. Now accounting for 6% of total vines in the region. Growing best in the regional Bourgogne Aligoté appellation in Bouzeron, it has become the championed varietal in northern Côte Chalonnaise.
As Aligoté was driven to the cooler plots of the region, it presents a higher resistance to frost than its counterparts. With an earlier ripening cycle and cooler climate preferences, this varietal has been deemed a hardy and reliable grape. Surprisingly this has lowered the status of Aligoté as many producers are drawn to the ‘challenging’ varietals (such as Pinot Noir) to showcase their skills in the vineyard. Yet the reputation is slowly evolving, as the Aligoté wines presents a faithful reflection of the diverse terroirs whether it is from the Saône-et-Loire, the Côte-d’Or or the Yonne. Even though it is planted in very different winegrowing areas, the vines are generally found on limestone soils, often combined with marl or clay, and are well suited to hilly locations and higher altitudes. Further South in the Rhone Valley it is known to grow upon more sandy soils and yield just as complex wines.
All wines made from Aligoté are exclusively white. The naturally high levels of acidity within Aligoté enhances the floral and herbal notes within the dry wines made from the single varietal. For the winemakers utilising the grape in blends, it is often for its acidity to bring in more structure to the otherwise flat wines.
Traditionally the Bourgogne Aligoté grape is associated with the drink Kir, a local specialty of mixing white wine with crème de cassis blackcurrant liqueur. This differentiation further separates it from its Pinot family in the region and another boundary for the pure white wine to face when appealing to wine drinkers.
When next opening up a bottle of Aligoté there is a range of dishes you are able to set it next to. A freshly grilled fish and oysters have their saltiness that balances out the lively citrus notes of the varietal. Alternatively a nice and simple salad, dumplings, pastries, and snails pair wonderfully with the subtle power within the wine. Make sure to serve it at around 11-12°C to bring out each element to its full potential.