Aligoté: The Burgundian Underdog With A Distinctive Charm

When it comes to white wine, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc might steal the spotlight, but there’s an unsung hero quietly charming the palates of those who venture beyond the mainstream: Aligoté. This grape variety, often overshadowed by its more famous Burgundian cousin, Chardonnay, offers a unique profile that deserves a closer look.

A Brief History

Originating in Burgundy, France, Aligoté has been somewhat of a hidden gem. While not as prestigious as Chardonnay, it has played a key role in Burgundy’s winemaking history. Its existence dates back to at least the 17th century, though it’s often been relegated to lesser vineyard sites. Despite this, Aligoté has carved out its own niche, offering a different but equally compelling narrative to Burgundy’s white wine scene.


Aligoté is a hardy grape, able to thrive in cooler climates and less ideal vineyard sites where more temperamental varieties might struggle. This resilience is a boon, allowing it to consistently produce good yields of high-quality grapes.

Flavour Profile

The hallmark of Aligoté lies in its vibrant acidity and fresh, crisp flavors, making it a distinctive choice among white wines. This varietal typically exhibits a delightful bouquet of floral and citrus notes, encompassing hints of lemon zest, green apple, and a subtle minerality that adds to its complexity. Its lean and lively character is marked by a refreshing, almost zesty quality that dances on the palate. In contrast to the more opulent and buttery notes found in Chardonnay, Aligoté offers a more straightforward and refreshing profile. This wine’s purity and unassuming elegance are further accentuated by nuances of white flowers and a hint of almond, creating a delicate yet invigorating taste experience that is both unique and memorable.

Different Styles of Wines

While traditionally Aligoté has been used to produce straightforward, unoaked wines, modern winemakers are experimenting more with this grape. You’ll find both unoaked versions that celebrate its zesty freshness and oaked styles that add complexity and richness. Some producers are even exploring sparkling and late-harvest expressions of Aligoté, showcasing its versatility.

Winemaking and Maturation Options

Aligoté responds well to a range of winemaking techniques. Stainless steel fermentation and aging highlight its natural acidity and fresh fruit flavors, while oak aging can impart additional layers of complexity, such as subtle spice and creaminess. The choice of winemaking and maturation methods significantly influences the final style of the wine.

Important Regions

While Burgundy is the heartland of Aligoté, the grape has found homes in Eastern Europe, particularly in countries like Bulgaria and Moldova, as well as in the United States. Each region brings its unique terroir influences, creating diverse expressions of the variety.

In Burgundy, the best examples often come from the Bouzeron appellation, the only AOC dedicated exclusively to Aligoté. Here, the grape is given the chance to shine, producing wines that are both nuanced and expressive.

Food Pairing Suggestions

Aligoté’s crisp acidity makes it a versatile partner for a wide range of dishes. Its fresh character pairs beautifully with light seafood, salads, and goat cheese. In Burgundy, it’s famously mixed with crème de cassis to make Kir, a delightful aperitif. For a more adventurous pairing, try it with Asian dishes; its bright acidity can cut through the richness of the cuisine.

Aligoté may not command the same attention as some of its white wine counterparts, but it’s precisely this underdog status that makes discovering it so rewarding. Its versatility, both in the vineyard and the glass, along with its distinctive flavor profile, make it a variety well worth exploring for any wine enthusiast.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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