Unsung Burgundy grapes

Burgundy is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay territory (one third and two thirds respectively) and almost all the appellations produce wines that are 100% Chardonnay or Pinot. There are however two less know varieties cultivated in the region.

The first is Aligoté, a white grape used to make dry white wines. Those wines have their own AOC, Bourgogne Aligoté and are usually made from less valued tracts of land in the Cote d’Or, the Mâconnais or the Cote Chalonnaise. The Bourgogne Aligoté AOC actually allows for up to 15% of Chardonnay. There is also a more restricted appellation near the village of Bouzeron, this Bouzeron AOC allows for smaller yields than the regional AOC.


Wines made from Aligoté have high acidity with green apple and lemon flavors and some floral elements. They are made to be drunk young, and they are often used to make the traditional Burgundian aperitif kir by mixing it with Crème de Cassis. I have a weird affinity with Aligoté since it was often the wine of choice for my family’s Sunday evening gatherings. It’s a minor grape that produces unremarkable wines but it makes for good aperitif fare.


Even though it was banned by Philip the Bold in 1395, Gamay is grown in Burgundy today, especially in the southernmost region, the Cote Chalonnaise, close to Beaujolais where Gamay is actually the main variety. The main Burgundy appellation that allows the use of Gamay grapes; it’s Bourgogne-Passetoutgrains AOC (sometimes written Passe-Tout-Grains). It’s basically a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes; the name actually translates as “allows all grapes”.


Bourgogne Passetoutgrains must contain more than 30% Pinot Noir, more than 15% Gamay and less than 15% combined of other grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris). It’s another wine released and meant to be drunk young. It can be red or rose and is usually light and fruity. To me, this is a great picnic wine for instance.

So, two minor varieties used to make minor wines but both can be enjoyed in the right setting,

5 thoughts on “Unsung Burgundy grapes

  1. Hey Antoine, do you know Pierre Andre, Les Craies Bourgogne Aligote 2010, I tried it in Sept whilst in the Roussillon and was very impressed! It was a memorable wine for me. I wrote a little on it in my blog guestmeasures.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/picture-this-catalunya/.

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