Who Will Lead The Way?
Unless you were hiding under a distant rock (in which case, I completely understand) you would have no doubt learned that on June 1st the United States pulled out of the largest collective climate change action ever, The Paris Agreement. Many of us earthlings have our fingers crossed that change is on the horizon for America and that this move is not unlike their leadership, a confused and temporary direction. But on the matter of climate, everyone involved reaches far beyond the American borders and culture. It affects us all, and perhaps even the wine choices we may see on store shelves in the not too distant future. What takes a vintage from superb to sad? Weather. And who will weather the storms of change is a story yet to be told, but I put the charming little workhorse Aligoté as a contender.
My inspiration for this post comes from a recent tasting I attended which focused on the lesser-known white grape of France’s Burgundy region, Aligoté. The humble Aligoté currently makes up about 6% of total white grape plantings in the region, most of which are found in the Bouzeron appellation. Burgundy’s better-known grape Chardonnay produces the regions famed white wines. These wines set benchmarks for quality wine making in the world. They represent Chardonnay in its top form and pedigree. Montrachet, Meursault and Chablis make me happy when it feels kinda like we are going to hell in a hand basket.
I am however also a big fan of Aligoté, which at its best is far from the tart, green, and high acid wines that can occur at its worst when ripeness levels are not achieved from this vigorous vine. The best examples of well-made Aligoté are clean, herbal, energetic and full of life. Doesn’t that sound like something you’d like to uncork tonight? They are wonderful food wines and often tote a pleasurable minerality along with lemon notes that pair well with seafood or simply as an aperitif. Aligotés mouth- watering acidity awakens the palate and gets gastric juices flowing like a good digestive enzyme!
Aligoté happens to handle extreme weather better than Chardonnay, it benefits from a bit more warmth without becoming flabby as can be the case with over-ripe Chardonnay. Increased ripening softens the edges of Aligotés natural high acid. Heat and extreme weather are realities that climate change is offering and I wonder if this humble grape will have more of a role in the future with climate change on our lap? Will we see a shift in vineyard management towards plantings of grapevines that can take a heating and beating?