The rise of Aligote
Aligote has become a rising star over the past two decades, but has been cultivated since the 18th century in Burgundy. A cross of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, this white grape is prized for its excellent acidity and complex yet delicate bouquet. Often used to bring vibrancy and thirst-quenching character to blends, it gained its own AOC status in 1937 - Bourgogne Aligote AOC - and the Burgundy region continues to explore it as a unique and satisfying varietal. Cold resistant vines have allowed Eastern Europe to also embrace its full potential, with popularity in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova as well as North America's Washington State and Niagara.
This large grape also thrives in a diverse range of soils, such as limestone, clay and sand, and enjoys the thinner soils of hilly terrain. With careful cultivation, the resulting dry wine brings a beautifully layered bouquet which can include peach, green apple, citrus, subtle nutty (hazelnut), herbal and floral (white blossom) nuances. The good acidity balances this complexity with satisfying refreshment. It is traditionally matured in stainless steel and, as with many white wines, best drunk in youth within 1 to 3 years of vintage. The grape is not averse to bottle ageing though, and some examples can bring further clarity when aged. Some winemakers are now working with oak maturation, bringing a longer-aged wine with more rounded herbal, nutty, ripe fruit and smoky flavour.
Curtea Regala Aligote (12.5% £13.70) from Macin, Romania, is a brilliant example of what can be achieved with this grape. Grapes are sourced from the internationally renowned Sarica Nicultel (DOC) vineyard, long established since 1958 and benefiting from the sunny hillsides and the cooling influence of the Danube. Unoaked, it is a refreshingly dry wine exuding a rich, earthy, slightly bitter flavour. of herbs, nuts and blossom alongside fresh green apple, lemon and unripe peach. Fresh and clean, it is best drunk young. The high acidity of Aligote wines make them a good pairing for grilled fish, seafood pasta, crab and sushi. The simultaneous delicacy of the wine also means it complements, rather than overpowers, chicken salads, steamed vegetables and dumplings, and spring rolls. For cheese, try with soft or crumbly white cheeses, goats cheese or feta.