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Aligoté: The Middle Child of Burgundy

Regions, Travel, White Wine, Wine

Aligoté is the “other” Burgundian white wine. Simply enough, when you typically see Burgundy white wine it’s 100% Chardonnay. If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking, “That’s way too easy” — you’re right. Depending on the region, vineyard, and producer, that “Chardonnay” can come in a range of different styles.

If you want to see a quick guide to white burgundy (Chardonnay) check out this brief post!

Back to Aligoté though. Fun Fact: Way back in 1780 this varietal was originally called Plant de Trois – a synonym because the vines typically have 3 bunches per branch.

Another fun fact: Aligoté is an early budder, which means that when spring frost hits, it can wipe out the crop or destroy a good portion of it. Consequently, it does better in the warmer areas of Burgundy, specifically in Chalonnaise and the village of Bouzeron. Let’s talk a bit more about the Burgundian grape profiles though. I thought putting it in terms of birth order may be helpful.

The Children of Burgundy

The Oldest Child – Chardonnay

If Chardonnay in Burgundy is the favored first-born child, Aligoté is the middle child, and Pinot Noir is the baby. Chardonnay is the queen. It grows well anywhere and can be quite self-reliant. It also can achieve incredibly high quality and status and can be molded into various styles according to the winemaker’s wishes. (Some say firstborns can be high achievers and people-pleasers – Chardonnay absolutely fits that role).

In other words, Chardonnay is the A+, 4.0, Ivy League Kid who got Honorable Mention at soccer camp when they were 8 for answering all the right questions. Despite never kicking the ball once. Everyone gets a trophy these days.

The Middle Child – Aligoté

Aligoté is the middle child – often forgotten about when the youngest or oldest enter the room and demand attention for their achievements or funny wit. Or for even doing basic things… like breathing (do any other middle children get this?).

Aligoté is a fairly productive vine, like Chardonnay, and can grow decently well in very cool climates. It’s adaptable – Aligoté grows in the less desired plots of land because Chardonnay gets the best sites.Like with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and any other grape – if proper care isn’t taken, these wines can turn out to be simple and uninteresting. In Aligoté’s case, the wine can be filled with more sour fruits than anything else. However, when proper care is taken, these wines can have ripe orchard fruits with a refreshing zing to them. The best of the best could even rival a crisp and refreshing Chardonnay. I’m sure of it.

In short: Aligoté is Switzerland in all arguments. Never wanting one side or the other to feel bad. Sometimes this can make Aligoté a bit uninteresting, or cause it to become more of a wallflower. While not in the Ivy League circuit, or on the Met Gala Invite List, Aligoté has a personality that can mix and mingle with anyone, making it an easy-going party guest.

The Baby – Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the youngest – it’s the most demanding and most babied of all grapes. I’ve heard one Sommelier I know describe Pinot Noir (to grow) as difficult as “my ex-wife.” A little harsh, maybe? If it’s too cold, Pinot Noir won’t grow well. Too hot and it won’t grow well. If it’s too damp, Pinot Noir’s tight bunches get moldy. Too sunny? The thin-skinned berries get a sunburn (it’s actually a thing). Too cloudy? Pinot Noir gets sick (uneven fruit set or the buds don’t flower). However – when it does grow, it makes a stunningly beautiful wine. One that a lot of people want. Now you know why it’s so expensive.

AKA: Pinot Noir is the one that gets a lot of attention, but we love it for that very reason. This is the kid that sniffles and everyone thinks they must have come down with influenza. They get out of school for a whole week, and mom makes their favorite meal when they’re finally “feeling better.” However, they’re so stinkin’ lovable that you can’t be mad at them. It’s not until maturity that you can see how capable and responsible they are. Being told they’re so special actually helped them turn out that way.Pinot Noir is like the person you know (or want to know) on all the hottest invite lists you can think of. It practically is the Met Gala. Everyone wants to be seen with Pinot Noir – even if it is the most expensive friend we have.

All Comes Down To Climate/Soil

So why are there these differences? Partially because of basic grape characteristic. But a huge part of it is soil.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir get the best soils and the most time and attention. Aligoté is more of the secondary income source. Some producers do value it though and do try to give it better plots and more care. See the below wine for a great example!

If you want to learn more about how climate affects wine – definitely check out my book, Wine Label Shopping: Buy More Than Just A Pretty Label, to see how this changes the wine’s flavor. For an introduction to this idea, you can also check out this blog post to see how climate affects wine.

Other Regions it Grows

Aligoté may have originated in Burgundy, but due to its ability to cope with cooler climates, it does quite well in many areas of Eastern Europe. Places to keep an eye out for are:

Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia! These wines will typically have a bit more acidity (much cooler climates).

Aligoté can also be found here in the West, in California, Washington, and Canada. Canada would likely be closest in style to Eastern Europe, California the ripest and warmest styles, and Washington closest to Burgundy.

In Summation

So there you have it – Aligoté in terms of the other main Burgundian grapes. I hope you won’t discount it, but rather see it as a different (rather than “lesser”) varietal and something fun and new to try.

Aligoté is also a great food wine! Even the lower-tier ones can be great with fresh seafood, try them as the “lemon juice” element to your raw oysters, or with a lobster ravioli. It just may be a new favorite pairing.

Jean Boisselier Bourgogne Aligoté France 2020 Wine Review

Sight: This wine is pale gold.

Nose: This wine has notes of ripe apricots, wet stones, ripe green and yellow apples, ripe pear, and tart peach. This wine has moderate intensity.

Palate: This wine has moderate plus intensity, this wine is dry with moderate plus acidity, moderate alcohol, a medium body, and a moderate finish. This wine has notes of ripe peach, pear, apple, and lemon zest. There are also notes of fresh grass and wet rock.

Assessment: This is a good wine. Drink now, do not age.

Food Pairing: This wine would be excellent with shellfish or seafood of any kind (raw cold water oysters to shrimp scampi to grilled salmon or grouper). Recommend from my blog: try my curry salmon with this wine! I also would recommend this wine with a charcuterie board or turkey sandwich with goat cheese and apricot jam.

Final Thoughts: I purchased this wine on sale from Martha Stewart Wine Co. for the Labor Day sale where all wines are $9.99. This wine originally sells for $24.99. Personally, I would pay $24.99 for this wine. It’s delicious, full of flavor, and something that you can’t find in a lot of other places. I also think that this is a good value wine. I will definitely be purchasing again!

Hi! I'm Sydney,

nice to meet you!

I left a marketing career in Hollywood to go to the Culinary Institute of America. After a few years of working in restaurants, I am now a private chef and sommelier in the 30a area.


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