Godello: the story of a survivor

As the title of this article suggests, we’re lucky to have Godello with us, because it nearly went extinct.

Firstly, it was hit by phylloxera. Phylloxera is an insect which plagued European vineyards in the 19th century and had a massive impact on the Spanish wine landscape. And whilst you can still find vines that date back to pre-phylloxera days, a lot of Galicia’s vineyards were impacted by the plague.

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On top of that, the grape itself isn’t that easy to work with. It can be difficult to cultivate and often delivers low yields. Combine that with a series of export limitations that Franco introduced – not just on wine, but on a range of Spanish products – and many winemakers just felt Godello wasn’t worth the effort.

Fortunately we didn’t lose Godello forever. And for that we can thank Horacio Fernández Presa.

In the 1970s, he launched a project called REVIVAL which focused on restructuring vineyards in Valdeorras - one of the 5 Denominaciones de Origen in Galicia - and reviving native grapes in the region – most notably Godello.

Thanks to Horacio’s work we are still enjoying Godello today. And the winemakers of Valdeorras continue to pay homage to the man they call the father of Godello.

But enough about the history, what about the grape itself?

Well, as I said earlier, Godello can take quite a bit of work to get the best out of it. It’s an early ripening grape that delivers quite low yields. Which means it certainly doesn’t work for mass produced wines.

That has its pros and cons. On the one hand it means you’re almost always going to get a well-crafted wine with Godello. But it also means you may have to pay a touch more for it.

As we’ve seen, Godello is primarily produced in Valdeorras as well as in Monterrei, another Galician DO. But you’ll also find it being used across the border in the Bierzo region of Castilla Leon. These regions, especially Galicia, offer cool wet climates, mountainous landscape, and granite and slate soils, which provide perfect conditions for the Godello grape and really help to give it the minerality that characterizes these wines.

The wines you get from Godello tend to be straw-coloured with good acidity, plenty of body and slightly higher levels of alcohol than other whites.

You can expect strong fruit flavours – a mixture of citrus and green apple together with sweeter fruits like peach. But you’ll also get a touch of salt and that mineral flavour I mentioned before. You really can sense the slate coming through in the taste of this wine. That makes it more complex and structured than normal whites.

Usually, Godello is fermented in stainless steel vats to avoid messing with that fruit and mineral combination. But it does sometimes get aged in wooden barrels, which can give it a slightly nutty or toasted flavour and can make it quite similar to a chardonnay.

Because of that combination of flavours, it goes really well with shellfish, but the fact that it has more body and more complex characteristics means it also works with stronger flavours like octopus with paprika or anchovies and it’s a great accompaniment to cheeses.

So, if you fancy a wine that has a bit more going on than your average white, I definitely recommend you pick up a bottle of Godello.