Everyone loves a good underdog story and in September ’21, our favorite wine expert, Raúl, was back to reveal the story of Spain’s underdog grape, Godello.
Godello used to be an overlooked, undervalued variety and is now the best white grape on the peninsula, according to Raúl. The wine world now sings Godello’s praise, referring to it as “Spain’s hidden gem” and “the country’s best kept secret”.
We tasted this complex, multifaceted wine and preparing a perfect culinary kiss goodbye to the summer to accompany it: a chilled, ajo blanco soup.
From what we know through written documentation, Godello dates back to the 16th century, originating in the Sil Canyon in Spain’s autonomous region of Galicia. The oldest vines (over 200 years old) can be found in Zamora. However, Zamora is not a major producer of the rare white grape. Approximately 80 percent of the roughly 1000 hectares of Godello grown in Spain is grown in Valdeorras, a DO in the province of Ourense in Galicia. The rest is grown in either Galicia’s Ribeiro region or in the territory of Bierzo in Leon. Portugal is also in on the secret and, in fact, grows twice as much of the white variety, known as Gouveio, as Spain.
Godello’s rise from the ashes is thanks, in large part, to one man; José Ramón Gayoso. After phylloxera swept the country and decimated grape vines in the 19th century, wineries were forced to replant their vineyards and most chose to do so with foreign varieties. The common, and certainly most logical, thought was that it was best to grow varieties that yielded the most grapes in order to produce large quantities of wine and recover money lost as quickly as possible. Gayoso, however, did not subscribe to this notion and decided to replant the wildly underappreciated grape of Godello. He felt strongly that Godello had plenty of future potential and risked planting the white grape on his vineyard, Valdesil, in Valdeorras instead of other “safer” varieties. Everyone thought he was completely out of his mind but he proved all of the naysayers wrong and his Godello vines still thrive today 120 years later. The sacred grapes from these particular vines are now used to make only 550 magnum bottles a year of Predouzos, a highly prized wine that can exclusively be consumed at one of Spain’s 3 star Michelin restaurants. Though we cannot be 100% sure, as the information is kept top secret, Raúl believes the wine goes to the restaurant Celler de Can Roca.
Though not from the original, 120 year old vines, Raúl will be drinking another wine from the Valdesil winery at the tasting this Sunday and he is not shy about his adoration for this wine and the godello grape in general. Godello is Raúl´s favorite white grape “by far”, he tells us, due to its versatility and range of flavors. The key to producing quality Godello is growing it in the
right place, Raúl explained to us. The reason it was not historically considered capable of yielding good wines is that it used to be planted in wet areas with high humidity. Godello is very sensitive to disease and so needs a dry, hot climate rather than a damp, cool climate. This is why it thrives so well in the dryer regions of Valdeorras and Bierzo and struggles more in the wetter Ribeiro. Godello grows best in warm soils that release heat at night such as limestone, rock and slate. Soil greatly influences the flavors we find in wines made from Godello. The white grape produces aromas of stone fruit, tropical fruit, and flowers. This is only the beginning of the story, however, as aromas are enhanced through the ageing process in oak, adding mineral, oxidized, and buttery flavors to the mix. Godello is also characterized by high sugar content and high acidity, containing a high alcohol percentage for the climate it is produced in.
Raúl and a selected few winemakers are not the only ones who have been drawn to Godello in recent years. In 2010, Robert Parker gave 90 points to Godello, “Rua”, from the Cooperative of Virgen de las Viñas in Valdeorras. Since then, Godello production has increased 30% in Spain and has become increasingly trendy amongst wine drinkers. Despite its new found popularity, winemakers have been careful not to fall into the “Verdejo trap” where, in the region of Rueda, the grape has become mass produced and has suffered in quality and value as a result. The Godello growing business, in general, continues to stay small, producing less wines and, therefore, preserving quality and keeping demand high.
We hope you were able to join us (if not, contact us to set up a session!) to taste this very special grape that, despite facing extinction in 1970, is flourishing today. It will pair perfectly with the cold, white almond garlic soup we will be making and will be brought to life through Raúl’s enthusiasm and knowledge. Cheers!