Smith-Chapel 2019 Bourgogne Aligoté

Michele Smith and David Chapel of southern Burgundy

An Aligoté to change your mind about this grape, made by the Franco-American couple above.

From €16.50, $25.99, £21, NZ$45, 278 Danish kroner

Find this wine

We’ve been harping on for some time about how Aligoté, the once lean and mean also-ran white wine grape of Burgundy, has come into its own in this era of warmer summers.

If ever a wine was going to convince you of this it is the 2019 version produced by the inspiring partnership of Michele Smith and David Chapel, who are cooking up a storm in southern Burgundy. Julia profiled this up-and-coming project in 2019 here after her tour of Beaujolais and I see that no fewer than three of us team members – Julia, Richard and I – separately fell in love with their Côte de Bessay 2017 Juliénas, made under the name of David Chapel. I’m glad that Michele is now being cited on the label too.

Briefly, the story is that David is the son of famous chef Alain Chapel and spent a lot of time with his great friend Marcel Lapierre, godfather of top-quality, ‘natural’ beaujolais. David started out as a sommelier but then worked chez Lapierre. Julia told the story of their whirlwind romance thus: ‘The couple met in 2013 when Michele, a wine director in NYC, visited Domaine Lapierre and, in the absence of Matthieu (she arrived late, apparently), was shown around by David, who moved to NYC a month later.’ Michele had perhaps the top job for any somm in Manhattan, choosing wines for Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant, then the hottest spot in town (though Nick’s experience there in 2005 was not the happiest), so it must have taken quite a lot to relinquish that for a life establishing an unknown wine label.

But they clearly have the magic touch for their wines seem to be perfectly attuned to our times: pure, expressive and utterly delicious. All that managed in conjunction with young twins.

I came across this 2019 Aligoté as part of a tasting case put together by new online providers of wine and wine information LITTLEWINE (whose price of £21 a bottle is quoted above) but I see that the wine is pretty widely available in both the UK and US, as well as in New Zealand, Denmark and Spain, which boasts the lowest price per bottle.

Here’s my tasting note, complete with full-bottle weight, as part of our new policy aimed at drawing attention to those who use unnecessarily heavy bottles:

Full bottle only 1,205 g. Winemakers Michele Smith and David Chapel have long been fans of Aligoté and have been able to buy some organic fruit from an east-facing marl slope in Igé in the Mâconnais to create their own expression. At the same time, they're financially supporting the young grower. Win, win! This is very simple winemaking to allow the fruit to speak for itself. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed, after which the juice was left to ferment naturally in stainless steel, in which it was aged for seven months. 20 ppm of sulphites was added when the wine was racked just before bottling; none beforehand.
Pale gold. Light smoky nose and then extremely opulent fruit on the palate with a hint of spearmint! Gloriously friendly. This has absolutely nothing to do with the tart Aligotés of old. Quite a throb of interest and vitality on the finish. Scrummy – perhaps too much so now to give it a longer life. Super-clean and interesting. I went back to this a whole week after tasting it and it was still in great shape and so thoroughly interesting that I increased my score from 16.5 to 17. It's still totally scrummy.

I hope this gives you the picture. Scrumminess incarnate. Rich but not remotely sweet. A lovely combination of the ripeness of the Mâconnais and the discipline of Aligoté. Not a copy of a Côte d’Or white. Its own beast. Nick, who usually wholeheartedly favours red over white, drained the bottle to the last drop. I do hope Smith and Chapel continue to increase their portfolio and influence.

Discover other Aligotés we love.