Aligote is an acidic white grape that emerged in the 1600s as a cross of Gouais Blanc and Pinot Noir. Kin to Chardonnay, the grape is cultivated in very small quantities in Eastern Europe and Washington State, but is best known as the second white wine of Burgundy.
Learn its backstory
Even after receiving its own appellation from French authorities in 1937 (which theoretically elevated the grape’s status, but also effectively removed it from winemakers’ palette of blending grapes), Aligote didn’t get much respect from connoisseurs. Burgundian growers usually planted the varietal on hilltops where Chardonnay wouldn’t thrive, and ended up with massive amounts of grapes so acidic that it became common practice to stir crème de cassis into Aligote.
Lately, though, growers have been paying more attention to the region’s house wine. As Jon Bonne last year wrote in Punch, “At a time when Burgundy has become a totem for the rich, aligoté stands out as its populist wing — the sort of Bernie Sanders of Burgundian varieties.” He credited warmer weather patterns and younger winemakers, sensitive to their friends’ pocketbooks, with instigating the trend.
As the examples now reaching the U.S. illustrate, Aligote is generally pale yellow in color, and has a tart, mineral taste. At its best, it’s subtle enough to pair with fresh cheese and oysters. But like so many products of the people, its qualities are all over the place (although it’s safe to say the sloppiest Aligotes are unlikely to be exported; that situation may change when the varietal becomes wildly popular on this side of the pond.)
And order it here
FIG, 232 Meeting St., 843-805-5900, eatatfig.com (Edmond Cornu Aligote, $49)
— Hanna Raskin