It might seem a bit surprising that this tiny domaine is so under the radar unless you’ve met its owner. Aubert de Villaine (the P. is for wife Pamela) is the owner/director of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (aka "the domaine"), and one of the most humble, unassuming people I’ve ever met in the wine business. His day job involves running the most famous wine estate on the planet which he’s been doing since the 1960’s when he settled into the family business. In the 1970’s, he and his wife decided to settle down not in the prestigious Côte d’Or but in the significantly less pedigreed back country of the Côte Chalonnaise to the south in the village of Bouzeron. This is ground zero for great Aligoté and the example made here is considered to be the finest in Burgundy. Aubert's nephew, Pierre de Benoist has been here since 2000 and now runs the place and is quietly making some of the best and most sought after wines in all of Burgundy.
Farming at De Villaine is every bit as meticulous as is practiced at DRC with both organic and biodynamic methodology being followed. The Aligoté comprises his largest holdings of vines up to 90 years old and planted on the best hillsides with the best exposures. This is classic argilo-calcaire terroir; nutrient poor with thin to no topsoil. This produces tiny yields, 28 hectolitres per hectare in a typical vintage, close to half the yield limit for the most prestigious grand cru white Burgundies. Winemaking is very traditional as you might expect. Hand harvesting, gentle pressing to avoid astringency, vinification in giant foudres and subsequent elévage in the same casks. The only nod to modernity is temperature control during fermentation to preserve freshness.
There are two clones of Aligoté planted in Burgundy; the Aligoté Doré which is planted here and the lesser Aligoté Vert which is found pretty much everywhere else. The Doré variety, the one this wine is made from, produces tiny yields and a much more expressive wine. This is the clone that Coche, Roulot, Ponsot, Sylvain Pataille et al make their excellent Aligoté from. What those guys are missing is the terroir. Bouzeron is where this variety really feels at home and in fact is the only dedicated AOC for Aligoté.
The 2016 was a difficult vintage, arriving on the heels of the very easy 2015's which were good but more fruit forward and a bit rounder. Frost really did a number on the vineyards in 2016 and yields were way down. The Bouzeron 2016 is much more floral and mineral without the fat of the 2015 and very fresh due to the brisk acidity. Much of that lively quality is due to the particular marly limestone of Bouzeron. There is always a richness to this wine and always a firm backbone. White flowers, crushed rock, citrus zest on the nose with gorgeous white fruit and precise, detailed texture which helps balance the richness. A lot of complexity at this price and always one of the great bargains in white Burgundy. Short supply and always high demand for this wine.