Aligoté is hardly a household name in Australia, but the grape is a characterful one, and it can tolerate very cold conditions and resist disease, making it a good prospect for some of the more coolly marginal vineyards.
Also known as
Although it does have a number of synonyms, wine drinkers are unlikely to encounter aligoté called anything else in Burgundy (or certainly here), though it is called melon de jura in France’s Jura region, near Switzerland.
What aligoté tastes like
Mostly the expressions will have light stone fruit, apple, pear and citrus notes, but riper examples can be quite aromatic and lifted, even touching on the exotic. Aligoté is also the classic wine to use in a Kir, a Burgundian wine ‘cocktail’, which is simply wine with a stain of crème de cassis – so those blackcurrant notes aren’t from the grape.
Vineyard & winemaking
Aligoté thrives in the cold and is resistant to the diseases that those conditions may bring, with it also typically holding very vibrant acidity. Similar winemaking to chardonnay can be employed, with aligoté being able to accommodate oak ageing, though only the more substantial wines work well with newer oak.
Where is aligoté grown?
An old burgundy grape, aligoté’s presence in vineyards has dwindled significantly over the years, with chardonnay a far more desirable prospect for most vignerons. That doesn’t mean the grape doesn’t perform well there, rather simply showing how valuable chardonnay is. In fact, aligoté is Burgundy’s second most planted white, but when you consider that most people couldn’t name a white grape in Burgundy other than chardonnay, that doesn’t mean that much. Still, its presence is not trivial. Aligoté is still bottled there varietally as its own Bourgogne appellation, and it is also used to supplement the local sparkling wine, Crémant de Bourgogne. Previously, aligoté was interplanted with chardonnay, and no doubt still is in some vineyards. Created in 1998, Bouzeron, located in the Côte Chalonnaise in Burgundy’s south, is the only village appellation dedicated to the grape.
Aligoté around the world
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, aligoté is planted reasonably heavily, with some 50,000 hectares around the world. Given the variety’s ability to tolerate cold conditions, many of these plantings are in Eastern Europe and Switzerland, where such attributes are vital. It is planted in minor amount in North America, with vineyards in California, Oregon, Washington State and Canada.
Aligoté in Australia
There is not much aligoté in Australia at all, with Hickinbotham of Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula home to the country’s oldest plantings, and for a long time they were the only ones. Today, Terrason have vines in the ground in the King Valley, which were planted from cuttings taken from Hickinbotham, and Blind Corner has a tiny plot in Margaret River. And that’s it.
Some of the best Australian aligoté