With hundreds of small vineyards and a four-tier hierarchy of vineyard classifications, Burgundy is one of the more complicated wine regions on Earth. Oenophiles have always been grateful that the Burgundians at least kept the grapes simple, limiting themselves to two varieties, pinot noir and chardonnay. Except that they didn’t limit themselves to just two grapes: What many people don’t realize is that Burgundy also has a second white wine grape, known as aligoté. There is not much of it in Burgundy, just around 4,000 acres planted versus more than 30,000 acres of chardonnay, and a lot of the aligoté produced there is not very inspiring. Aligoté naturally yields light, acidic wines, and if you don’t get the fruit sufficiently ripe and concentrated, the result can be decidedly lean and mean.
However, there is also some excellent aligoté made in Burgundy, none better than that produced by Domaine A & P de Villaine. It is the personal estate of Aubert de Villaine, the co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Burgundy’s most acclaimed winery, and his wife Pamela. The domaine is located in the village of Bouzeron, in the Côte Chalonnaise part of Burgundy. Years ago, de Villaine did extensive research into Bouzeron’s viticultural past and discovered that aligoté had long been the mainstay of the village’s wine production. Thanks chiefly to de Villaine’s lobbying, Bouzeron was granted appellation status in the late 1990s, and any wine that carries the “AOC Bouzeron” designation must be comprised entirely of aligoté.
The 2010 Domaine A. & P. de Villaine Bouzeron ($28) is a fabulous wine from a stellar vintage in Burgundy. It shows zesty citrus fruit on the palate, along with a pronounced floral note and a hint of chalk. Lithe and sinewy, the wine has excellent acidity and minerality to balance out the fruit. This is a crisp, summery, totally charming wine that demonstrates the quality that can be achieved with aligoté and that will pair beautifully with seafood, poultry, and cheese. [$25, wine-searcher.com]