By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 25 November 2017
If you like aromatic minerally rich whites with the pungency of Viognier and the texture of Chardonnay, you will love Godello.
The Spanish Godello grape (pronounced God-a-yo) is the second most prestigious Atlantic white, after Albarino. Grown in Galicia in north-west Spain in the little known regions of Bierzo, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei, it was almost extinct in the 1970’s.
Thanks to the Godello Revival project masterminded by Horacio Fernandez and Luis Hidalgos, there are now over 1200 hectares in Spain and 970 hectares in neighbouring regions of northern Portugal.
It is believed to have originated on the banks of the River Sil in Spain’s Ourense province of Galicia, although some critics say it actually came from Godella in Valencia. The first written record from Portugal is from the Douro region in 1531 by Rui Fernandes – where it is called Gouveio – and today is often used in white port blends. A little is also found in Dao in northern Portugal.
Godello tends to like dry sites, compared to Albarino, so it is planted inland in Galicia, rather than on the wetter Spanish coast which suits Albarino better.
Godello’s spiritual home is Spain’s small Valdeorras region where the best flinty spicy whites are made on granite and slate hillside vineyards. Warm inland continental temperatures help ripen the grapes, but the Atlantic influence keeps acidity levels high. The best known producer in Valdeorras is the Guitan family’s La Tapada who specialise in Godello, making some of the longest lived Spanish whites.
Other famous Godello producers in Valdeorras are Rafael Palacios, Jorge Ordonez and Valdesil, who own the largest holdings of Godello here. All three make excellent rich minerally examples here.
In neighbouring Bierzo, the coal mining district in inland Galicia surrounded by mountains, Godello is planted on steep slatey slopes. Bierzo is rich in history, as the home of the most important gold mines in the Roman Empire at Las Medulas, but today it is best known for its Mencia red wines. Godello is now undergoing a revival in Bierzo, but it is often grown and blended alongside Dona Blanca and the rather dull Palomino grapes which were planted in its place after phylloxera.
A little further southwest in the tiny Monterrei region, right on the Portuguese border on the banks of the River Tamega, the climate is a little drier and warmer. Godello is known as Verdello here (not the same as Verdelho of Madeira) and Monterrei examples tend to be easier to drink, softer, less minerally – but still with the grape’s distinctive floral notes apple and apricot aromas.
UK supermarkets are embracing Godello in the same way they have with Albarino, so you can find good value examples under £10 (the best value was at Aldi who sold the very good Wine Foundry Godello, but is currently out of stock) – but to taste real Godello with its rich minerality you need to pay £12+ .
GODELLO TASTE TEST
Monterrei: Musica en el Camino Godello 2015
(£11 Marks & Spencer)
Apples & pears, floral notes – a lighter example of Godello; ideal as aperitif: 13%
Monterrei: Mara Martin Godello 2015 Martin Codax
(£11-£11.95 Valvona & Crolla www.valvonacrolla.co.uk; Maxwell’s Glasgow; The Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh; Aitken Wines, Dundee; Morrisons)
Citric and tropical fruits, soft rounded palate, leesy flavours with good length: 13%
Bierzo: Taste the Difference Godello 2015 ***STAR VALUE***
Citric fruit aromas with nutty herby undertones, lovely structure and crisp acidity – good value: 13.5%
Bierzo: Godello 2015 Bodegas Godelia
(£11.98 Moreno Wines; www.amazon.co.uk)
Peach and grapefruit notes with a piney floral palate, full rich leesy palate from 5 months on lees with batonnage (lees stirring); made from 80% Godello with 20% Dona Blanca: 13.5%
Bierzo: Legado de Farro Godello 2016 Bodegas Arganza ***STAR BUY***
(£11.99 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh)
Citrus & apple aromas, slightly herby with bayleaf undertones, well rounded palate with a delicious creamy leesy character and nutty undertones: 12.5%
Valdeorras: Gaba do Xil Godello 2016 Telmo Rodriguez
(£10.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
An easy drinking soft unoaked Godello made by the famous Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez; it has an attractive gentle delicacy and mineral hints: 12.5%
Valdeorras: Valdesil Sobre Lias Godello 2015 ***STAR BUY***
(£16 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
A very rich intense Godello with very creamy leesy palate, sleek minerality and fabulous depth: 13.5%
Valdeorras: Louro de Bolo 2016 Rafael Palacios
Interesting example; initially floral, orange zest notes with a classic minerally core and zesty acidity. From Godello grown on granite slopes and aged in large 3000 litres foudre casks with 6% Treixadura grape in the blend: 13.5%
Valdeorras: Avanthia Godello 2015 Jorge Ordonez ***STAR BUY***
(£18.75 www.vinissimus.co.uk; C&D Wines; Highbury Vintners; www.ultracomida.co.uk)
Godello at its biggest and best with butterscotch, greengage, apple & lemon flavours, rich toasty palate from barrel ferment and oak ageing for 7 months: 13.5%
Join Rose’s Chocolate & Wines for Christmas tasting in Edinburgh on 12 December £42pp www.rosemurraybrown.com