Pierre de Benoist has crafted a masterful and irresistible Aligoté in what is turning out to be a fabulous vintage for white Burgundy. There is its subtly finessed nose with a very fine notion of creaminess and a wonderfully vivacious personality. Then on the palate it is mineral and suave at the same time—its fine-grained texture is wrapped seamlessly with viscosity. This may truly be the perfect wine for crustaceans. It’s even better than that: it is one of Burgundy’s greatest Aligotés, a fitting tribute to a long and storied history of this beguiling grape in Burgundy, and a wine that provides intrigue and pleasure young, old, and in between.
In the 1970s, Aubert de Villaine, co-director of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, and his American wife, Pamela, settled in the village of Bouzeron. Upon planting his root in this small village, Aubert made himself a champion of the grape variety that reigns supreme in Bouzeron today—Aligoté Doré. Although the grape was overlooked until 1979 when it first earned the appellation Bourgogne Aligoté de Bouzeron, the I.N.A.O. finally upgraded the appellation to A.O.C. Bouzeron in 1997, largely due to Aubert’s advocacy over the years. Pierre de Benoist, Aubert’s nephew, currently directs the domaine, upholding the sense of tradition, excellence, and standards for which it has become so well-known.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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