Aligote vs. Chardonnay: Exploring Burgundy's Dynamic Duo of White Wine Grapes

By Tom Brushfield

Burgundy, France, is renowned for producing some of the world's most exquisite (and expensive!) wines. The best-known white grape varieties of this prestigious region, Chardonnay and Aligote, stand out with their unique characteristics and historical significance.

Let’s explore the distinct qualities of these two grapes, and their similarities and differences to help you appreciate the beauty they bring to your glass.’

As the oracle, Jancis Robinson MW said, “We’ve been harping on for some time about how Aligoté, the once lean and mean also-ran white wine grape of Burgundy, has come into its own in this era of warmer summers.”

Origins and Heritage:

Both Chardonnay and Aligote trace their roots to the ancient vineyards of Burgundy, creating a familial connection between the two. Chardonnay, the more widely recognised sibling, has gained worldwide popularity, while Aligote has often been considered the underdog, patiently waiting for its time to shine.

Flavour Profiles:

With its broad range of expressions, Chardonnay offers a spectrum of flavours ranging from buttery and creamy to tropical fruits and citrus. Its diverse styles include oaked and unoaked versions, allowing for nuanced profiles that suit various palates.

In contrast, Aligote displays a more focused and vibrant flavour profile. Its zesty acidity takes centre stage, accompanied by crisp green apple, citrus zest, and delicate floral notes. The wines tend to be lighter-bodied and refreshingly mineral-driven, appealing to those who appreciate a more refreshing and lively experience.

Acidity and Structure:

One of the primary distinctions between Chardonnay and Aligote lies in their acidity levels. Chardonnay typically possesses moderate to low acidity, providing a rounder and softer mouthfeel. This characteristic contributes to its versatility in ageing and ability to develop complex flavours over time.

On the other hand, Aligote shines with its high acidity, delivering a mouth-watering sensation that awakens the palate. This lively acidity lends Aligote wines a refreshing and invigorating character, making them perfect choices for immediate enjoyment and as aperitifs.

Food Pairing:

When it comes to food pairing, Chardonnay and Aligote offer distinct but equally delightful options. Chardonnay's richer and more textured profile makes it an excellent companion for creamy dishes, buttery seafood, and roasted poultry. Its versatility extends to complement a wide range of cheeses, from mild and nutty to soft and bloomy.

Aligote, with its zesty acidity and vibrant flavours, thrives alongside seafood, shellfish, and fresh salads. Its crispness makes it an ideal match for lighter dishes, allowing the flavours to shine while providing a cleansing effect. Additionally, Aligote's affinity for tangy goat cheeses and even spicy Asian cuisine makes it a surprising and delightful partner for various culinary adventures.

In the world of Burgundy's grape varieties, Chardonnay and Aligote offer unique experiences that reflect the region's terroir and winemaking traditions. While Chardonnay enchants with its diverse expressions and ageing potential, Aligote captivates with its lively acidity and vibrant flavours.

Both grapes have their rightful place on the wine stage, and exploring the nuances of each can bring joy and appreciation for the remarkable diversity of Burgundy's offerings. So, whether you find yourself captivated by the elegance of Chardonnay or enchanted by the lively spirit of Aligote, raise your glass and savour the beauty of these dynamic duos!

Cheers to the wonders of Chardonnay and Aligote, and the rich tapestry of flavours they bring to our wine-loving hearts!

(Note: This blog aims to provide an overview and general understanding of Chardonnay and Aligote. Individual wines may exhibit variations in flavour profiles and characteristics based on winemaking techniques, vineyard locations, and vintages.)