Sunday, June 06, 2010

Brooklyn Blind Tasting Panel #5 - 2007 Bourgogne Aligoté

Honestly, who drinks Aligoté? It's so acidic and harsh and there isn't much of a reward. There's a reason that people add crème de cassis to Aligoté - it raises the beverage to a potable level. But I've had a few genuinely good bottles of Aligoté in the past year, one in particular that was truly memorable, and I began to wonder if Aligoté wines are improving.

I was at a dinner with Peter Wasserman a few weeks ago and he told me that Aligoté used to be 40-50% of Burgundy plantings, even in the 1er and Grand Cru plots. I don't remember what Peter said about when this changed, but I think he said it was the 1950's...? Anyway, Aligoté needs to be ripe, Peter said. It needs to be picked later than Chardonnay. Old vines don't hurt either. But most producers simply weren't devoting that kind of attention to Aligoté and it made more sense to pull out the vines and replant with either Chardonnay or Pinot. At that dinner we drank a great bottle of Lafarge old vines Aligoté and I was excited to find out whether it would be that wine or the fantastic Alice and Olivier de Moor Aligoté that would stun everyone at the tasting.

So, is there something happening here - are Burgundy producers making better Aligoté, or are these wines still best as Kir fodder? What better way to find out than to convene the Brooklyn Blind Tasting Panel and get into a few bottles. I decided to focus on 2007 because it's a great vintage for white wine in Burgundy, and also because some of the 2007 Aligoté that I drank last year I remember thinking would benefit from a few more months in bottle. For this tasting I was joined by three guys who know a lot about wine - Justin Chearno of Uva in Williamsburg, Scott Reiner of Discovery Wines on the Lower East Side, and Joe Salamone of Crush in Manhattan.

We tried our hardest. We were open minded and very serious about tasting these wines, but I must sadly tell you that if this sample of wines is representative of Aligoté, and I think that it is, Aligoté is still very much hit or miss (mostly miss), and it under-delivers at its price point. Here are the wines we drank, along with some notes:

2007 A. et P. de Villaine Bouzeron, $22, Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. Aubert de Villaine makes wine for this other Burgundy producer called DRC. I've always been a bit biased against these wines under his own label. "What, 'cause you make DRC it means you automatically make great wines from the Côte Chalonnaise?" This is good wine though. Justin and Scott both picked it as their #2 wine in the tasting. It didn't "win" the tasting, but I'm listing it first anyway because by the time the tasting was finished and we sat down for dinner, this was clearly the best wine on the table. During the blind tasting it showed white flowers and a bit of honey, it was well balanced and well made, although everyone thought that it was a bit simple. It was better over dinner, but still not a wine to race to the stores for.

2007 Catherine & Dominique Derain Vin de Table Français Allez-Goutons, $23, Jenny & François Selections. This wine was kindly donated by Jenny & François for this tasting. No one voted for this wine, but everyone enjoyed it, and everyone gave the same reason for not voting for it. "It was really good, but so different from the others and it didn't speak so much of Aligoté so I didn't vote for it." I really liked this one - it was just ever so slightly effervescent and at 11% alcohol, it was light and lively with grapefruit pith on the nose. The palate was delicate and sheer, and very satisfying. Some thought it was too much about natural wine making, but I didn't. It was the only wine that held up well the next day. This is something that I would enjoy drinking again, but it is probably more divisive than any of the other wines we drank.

2007 Domaine Ramonet Bourgogne Aligoté, $22, Imported by Diageo Chateau and Estates Wines. Scott and I both picked this wine as our favorites of the tasting. I liked it because it smelled like Chardonnay, it was bigger and bolder than the other wines, and it had a lovely pungent minty nose. Scott thought it was the most complete wine. Justin thought the nose was great, with granite, rock, and soil. Joe felt that it was beefed up a bit. somehow made larger than it would naturally be. He felt a wood presence that intruded on the wine. For whatever it's worth, this wine did not maintain its goodness over dinner - by the time we ate it seemed disjointed and inflated like an air balloon.

2007 Paul Pillot Bourgogne Aligoté, $14, Imported by Margate Wine and Spirits. Joe and Justin both picked this wine as their favorites of the tasting, and Scott and I liked it too. Justin said that it was lactic at first, but that the fruit and acid balance was great, and he found himself thinking that he really wanted to drink it. Joe said that this wine rocked in the context of the tasting. It was nicely detailed with flowers and he appreciated the nature of the acidity - he said that most of the wines in the tasting showed acidity at the edges, but in this wine the acidity formed the core of the wine. I liked it too - my notes say apples, soft and pure, balanced, stones on the finish. The thing is, this wine was, to be honest and fair, basically undrinkable an half hour later over dinner. It completely fell off the table and became something that we were mystified about. How could it have been so good in a blind tasting and then been so bad while eating?

2007 Alice et Olivier De Moor Bourgogne Aligoté, $19, Louis/Dressner Selections. This was the truly memorable wine that I had a few months ago, and I was certain that it would "win" this tasting. The bottle we had was not representative of the wine, sadly. Joe said that although it was an outlier, he liked it anyway, and that it reminded him of northern Burgundy near Chablis - Kimmeridgian soils. I wanted to like it but I thought the nose had an oxidized quality that just turned me off, made the wine seem flat and lifeless. That said, I thought it was interestingly herbal - kind of minty, with lemon curd and herbal flavors, and a stony finish. Scott said that he initially didn't care for it but that it grew on him. We all agreed, drinking this wine with dinner, that it was an off bottle. Perhaps not flawed, but not representative of the great '07 De Moor Aligoté. In 2007 the De Moors combined their young vines Aligoté with their Plantation 1902, a beautiful Aligoté made from 100 year old vines. This bottle was not representative of the wine.

2007 Domaine Guy Roulot Bourgogne Aligoté, $20, Michael Skurnik Imports. I picked this wine as my second choice, but no one else particularly liked it. And they were right - it dropped off like a hot potato during our dinner. But during the tasting I liked its lean and stony profile and its pungent lemon scent. It was clean and acidic and very long, and I was certain that it was the next wine, the Lafarge. The others thought it was too creamy, too correct, with some artifice. Joe found the finish to be short - it grinds to a halt, he said.

2007 Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Aligoté Raisins D'Orés, $27, Becky Wasserman Selections/Martin Scott Imports. This wine was kindly donated by Peter Wasserman and Martin Scott imports for this tasting. This is an excellent wine made from 60-80 year old vines. It is delicate and intense and very stony and pure. But the bottle we drank was nothing like that, and we were shocked when we saw it unveiled - everyone knows how good this wine is, but this bottle was simply not right. The mid-palate was hollow, and it just wasn't very expressive. Joe thought it was the least together of all of the wines, with a darkness to the mineral finish. Justin thought the alcohol protruded a bit, and Scott thought it didn't carry its wood well. But trust me, this is a really good wine, and the bottle we had just showed terribly.

2007 Domaine Marcillet Bourgogne Aligote, $14, Savio Soares Selections. This wine was kindly donated by Savio Soares for this tasting. Scott thought this wine showed a lot of funk on the nose, that it was woodsy. Justin thought it was complex with woodsy and floral honey flavors, but also a bit murky on the finish. Joe and I both found it to be oxidized on the nose. He liked the expansive mid-palate, but he called it fundamentally flawed because the nose was so oxidized. I found the nose to be entirely oxidized and weird, and simply assumed that it was well past its prime.


Anonymous said...

Did a Blind Tasting about a month ago and A Aligote was slipped in, a number of us were leaving towards Chenin, its smell so good really, but on the Palate the Acidity, but the Tart Fruit, I could see it being really good if ripened properly maybes it is like Chenin needs proper care and attention, need maybe Nicholas Joly to grow/make some hah

Scott Reiner said...

Guglielmo Rocchiccioli said...

I would like to suggest an Aligoté for a pairing with a fresh cheese like mozzarella.
The tasting note are the followings:


Élevé et mis en bouteille dans la región de production à E69430 par Bouchard

Aîné & Fils - Éleveur - Négociant à Beaune - France.

VISUAL ANALYSIS: limpid, straw yellow with greenish reflexes, quite flowing

OLFACTORY ANALYSIS: hazelnut, peanut, lemon, vegetable note, wet groundyellow peach, bamboo, lavender and dandelion.

GUSTATIVE ANALYSIS: a wine almost balanced if the acidic component (salivation) does not prevail in teh least. At the end, it provides a very interesting fruit flavour of lemon and peach. Its persistence is about 4/5 seconds.

WINE-FOOD COMBINATION: fresh cheese (mozzarella)

MY PERSONAL OPINION: when you find a relevant citrus note at the nose and an important freshness at the mouth capable of stimulating abundant salivation, you are surely winetasting an aligoté coming from Burgundy. A charming experience to discover new oenological panorama in areas known all over the world for other vines and products.

Stephen Bobo said...

Too bad you didn't include Domaine Ponsot Morey St. Denis Mt. Luisants 1er Cru Blanc, which is Aligote based, in your tasting. We tried it in a recent visit there, and were amazed with the layers of flavors and minerality possible from Aligote. Of course, it is more expensive than the wines in your tasting, but it shows what is possible from this grape given prime terroir and a leading producer.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy a good Aligote and save for the Leroy, which really does stand head and shoulders above the rest, you did taste all of the best makers. In the end, I don't believe that the grape makes a wine that will evolve magically over the course of a multi hour meal, ascending the heights just as the last sip is consumed. After all, it is Burgundy, but it's not THAT Burgundy. But with a good turkey sandwich, a warm afternoon breeze and a chilled bottle of Lafarge's Raisns D'Or'es makes a delightful meal. Cheers

Brendan Lane said...

The Aligote that Robert Chevillon produces is really quite good. Can't say I have tasted the others but I really enjoy this one. Great article, Cheers.

Luca Pitino said...

De Moor Aligote' is a great great wine.