Wine Time

Wine of the Week: The Other Burgundy

Sunday night at our house means sexy vampires and crochety Jews on television (read "True Blood" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm") -- an odd pair, no doubt! And T.V. night at our house means home cooking (even though we've been eating in most nights since we got pregnant, if not to save money than to make sure that Tracie P and Baby P are eating well).

Last night Tracie P made the arugula, radicchio, and endive salad, and I made one of my favorite comfort-food dishes, Risotto alla Parmigiana (above): Parma-style rice (in this case Arborio because Central Market didn't have any Carnaroli), prepared with a tablespoon of finely chopped white onion sautéed in unsalted butter, chicken stock, a half cup of white wine, and generous amounts of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (the real stuff and ALWAYS freshly grated).

For the wine pairing, I reached in the fridge and grabbed a bottle of 2007 Aligoté -- the other Burgundian white grape -- by Domaine Michel Lafarge. (I picked up this little gem for less than $20 at Richard's on Kirby and Westheimer; ask for Jonathan.)

"Aligoté is a resistant grape which crops well," writes dismissively the world's leading expert on Burgundy, Clive Coates, Master of Wine, in the Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France (University of California Press 2000). It produces "a light, primeur-style wine with a slightly herbal flavour and rather higher levels of acidity." (By "primeur-style" he means a wine intended to be drunk young.)

As Coates notes, Aligoté has been largely abandoned by Burgundy producers, who favor the much more lucrative Chardonnay (thank you, America!). But there are still a few producers who make outstanding wines from this variety, including Michel Lafarge who issues what is perhaps the most famous bottling of Aligoté (Mikulski is another favorite of mine).

In the case of Lafarge's raisins dorés or "golden grapes" label, the fruit is sourced from a vineyards where "very old vines" produce "small[er-sized] grapes" that are allowed to reach full ripeness (read late harvest), according the winery's website. The resulting wine has a nuanced richness and slight sweetness uncommon for Aligoté. Where acidity (that magic word!) tends to dominate most bottlings of Aligoté, here it sits in glorious balance with beautiful stone fruit (think apricot and peach) flavors.

At four years out, the 07 Lafarge Raisins Dorés is probably a little bit past its prime but this wine is still singing with flavor. It was fantastic with the richness of the Parmigiano Reggiano in the rice and at less than $20 a bottle, we can afford to drink "the other Burgundy."

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine and modern civilization for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen