Aligoté is experiencing a renaissance in Burgundy, morphing from a rather ill-reputed grape to the new interest of a number of competent and even “fancy” producers who like to be at the region’s vanguard.
This has created a new, dynamic market for Burgundian producers, and Les Aligoteurs, a cadre of growers of the grape, are at the core of this movement.
On July 22, Les Aligoteurs held a large summer tasting at Bois Rouge – a restaurant in Flagey-Echezeaux – to give its members a platform on which to show their wines, and to party and/or celebrate themselves.
This is a fine initiative, as it introduces a slightly more anarchic element to the Burgundy tasting and marketing scene normally dominated by the BIVB and other professionals.
I like the mild anarchy, and while the tasting was better organised this year, the number of wines was still rather overwhelming. The food and atmosphere were tremendous, as they should be in a vibrant organisation seeking to raise the profile of the aligoté grape.
Aligoté – a complex grape
Aligoté is what some would call both a challenging and a changing grape – hence the diverse styles on show at the Aligoteurs tasting. Gone are the days of its use only for blanc cassis (Kir), or as an unripe but fresh and somewhat watery summer aperitif or lunchtime quaffer.
Instead, with global warming, more ripe and aromatic wines have shown that aligoté can actually offer something significant and delightful.
Aligoté is a grape full of character, hence the wide range of wines on show. Some I liked; others express sides of aligoté I don’t fancy so much.
Aligoté is, however, still affordable in most cases. But increasing prices on the wines from “star” winemakers put upward pressure on prices generally (have a look at Coche and Arnaud Ente – both superb aligotés, except for the price on the grey market).
My favourites at Les Aligoteurs 2021
I tried to taste most of the better-known producers as well as a number of unknowns from amongst the 60+ bottles that were generously opened by the members of Les Aligoteurs. Merci ❤️❤️❤️!
I don’t want to – and cannot – rate or describe all these wines in detail, as the setting was made for saying hello and chatting, and for pleasure and enjoyment, attributes in tune with the purpose of aligoté as a vin de soif – in some cases a very good vin de soif!
My favourite Aligoté this year
Laurent Fournier of Domaine Jean Fournier offered several of his excellent aligotés. My favourite was 2017 (I think) Champ Forey, from just north of the village of Marsannay. It has a temendously vinous feel with deep complexity, delightful balance, and harmony. A lovely expression of the northern part of Bourgogne, it is subtle, yet detailed and enjoyable. Made from old vines planted in 1921 and 1945.
The usual suspects …
Nicolas Faure’s Corvée de Bully is an old-vine-fest that works beautifully with the grower’s organic style. It’s an intense, refined wine which in the best vintages establishes a benchmark for how far aligoté can go. Century-old vines yield a matching depth and complexity. The 2019 is on the “light”, exotic side, and lacks some of the intensity of the great 2017 and 2014. It still deserves a mention however, despite the hailstorm taking the edge off this fantastic Aligoté.
Sylvain Pataille – like Nicolas Faure a founder of the Aligoteurs – also had a truly delightful Aligote on show.
A well-known Nuiton
A well-known Aligoté from Moron-Garcia was showing very well in the 2019 vintage, and was another personal favourite.
The new ones
First out was Emmanuel Rouget, with a delightful Aligoté very much in the house style, not surprisingly.
Secondly, a new estate: AMI Bourgogne in Maranges (Willy and Paul are the friends), which produces two exciting Aligotes. It is certainly a name to remember, and my favourite was the cuvée Les Péteurs (look it up!).