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Two Peas in a Pod

It’s May and we are tasting on one of the finest spring days you could imagine. Not a cloud in the sky and just the lightest of breezes. Sweet and English peas are sprouting in the garden and if the local wildlife can be fought off, hopefully I will have enough to harvest for a wonderful spring pea soup.

On the wine front we have 'two peas in a pod' in the form of two bottles of Bourgogne Aligoté. I love this grape. Often referred to as the “other” white grape of Burgundy, it was at one time included in the famed vineyards of Montrachet and Corton Charlemagne until the disease Phylloxera destroyed the vineyards and only Chardonnay was replanted.

A hybrid of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, this hardy grape ripens early and performs well in less fertile areas where stress from the natural elements limits its ability to overcrop and produce large, fat grapes. Done well, Aligoté has a wonderful balance of fruity citrus and flinty minerality and is just a joy to sip. Our two expressions of it today, both from biodynamic producers, reflect differences in the terroir of the northern and southern parts of the region.

From the north of Burgundy in the Chablis/Auxerre region where the cooler climate along with the dense clay soils chuck-full of fossilized shells impart this wine with fantastic structure and a clean, linear character. You can smell the clays and fossils in the nose, while the mouth is full of limes and lime blossoms, hints of grape leaves, and a lovely bit of nectar at the end. We cooked up a bouillabaisse the other day and lobbed some merguez lamb sausage into the mix too, and this wine, with its great structure and acidity, was the perfect match.

Our second Aligoté is from vineyards in southern Burgundy where a slightly warmer climate paired with the limestone base under the soils creates a more sensual, softer nose and riper fruit notes of lemon flesh and apricots, but still with impeccable acids. This would be delightful with grilled shrimps, crevettes, scallops, and clams piled up on a plate a la ‘fruits de mer’. Or, having just returned from Singapore, I can also envision this with a mouthwatering freshwater carp “cooked 3 ways”: grilled, poached and deep fried.

We have lots of yummy reds in the cellar too. I want to give another call out to the following two reds that are flying out the door. Firstly, the lovely Les Gravouilles, a beautiful Cabernet Franc from the Loire; and then the stunning Moulin-a-Vent from Domaine Les Gryphees. Both brilliant for anything on the BBQ.

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