Godello is not an ordinary grape, it brings an interesting story with it. Imagine, once it almost went extinct, but thank the hard work of Spanish viticulturists it’s slowly gaining more interest. The interest well deserved!
Where does the grape really come from? Some sources say that it was first recorded near Valencia, in the town of Godella. Other sources say that it was first cultivated in the Galician region, somewhere near the border with Portugal, which would also be supported by its genetic proximity to local Portuguese grapes.
Wherever it really came from in the past, no one can deny the quality of the wines that are produced with that grape — both as a varietal wine and as blends.
“Under the dictatorship of General Franco, the wine export was prohibited. Additionally, he believed wine should be restricted only to the needs of the Church.”
I can still clearly remember my first encounter with Godello. It was in Valencia in Spain, and I had only a little clue about wine at that time. I was hunting for literally any interesting wine in the central market — Mercat Central. A middle-aged man selling the wine tried to help me as much as he can explaining stuff in Spanish, while also explaining with his hands, very expressive like a true Italian. I didn’t understand almost anything from the Spanish, but he nodded and smiled when I said “Galicia… niiiiice!” looking at the small map on the label on the wine.
The wine was a varietal Godello from Armas de Guerra from Bierzo. I remember that was one of only a few occasions I was genuinely surprised with the wine’s taste at that time — it certainly didn’t taste like market wine (you know that undefined wine taste?), it had so much more to offer. One of my first, true a-ha! moments in conscious wine enjoyment.
Why did we almost lose it forever?
There are three (or more like two and a half) main reasons for the massive decline in Godello production and loss of interest in keeping the output. You need to remember that this grape is generally early budding, early ripening, a rather low yield variety. This means — it not only requires more work in the vineyard, but you will be able to produce less wine.
The first blow for the Spanish wine industry came with the phylloxera pest crisis at the end of the 1800s. It is when almost a third of the overall output was destroyed. Rising from that is not an easy or quick task to get done, especially since there was no known solution for the pest problems for years and the 1st World War was just around the corner. In that situation, the Spanish white wine producers turned to other grapes, easier to cultivate with a higher yield just like Palomino. Together with the rise to power of General Franco, the wine production received another hard blow. Under his dictatorship, the export was prohibited. Additionally, he believed wine should be restricted only to the use of needs Church. As a result, the quality and volumes declined.
The “father of Godello”
To the modern history of Godello and its coming back to life is the history of Horacio Fernández Presa of Valdeorras, who believed in the quality of the grape and brought it back to life by investing and cultivating it for many years. Of course, he was not the only one who single-handed brought the variety back. Fernández Presa put together a group of winemakers dedicated to the cause, who worked hard since the ’70s. The collaboration was running under the name RE.VI.VAL (Reestructuración de Viñedos de Valdeorras). The grape that was once nearly extinct and interest in which was close to zero, now it’s slowly getting back the attention, receiving positive reviews from wine lovers and professionals around the world.
Meanwhile, Horacio Fernandez Presa is considered to be the “father of Godello”. He had received several awards throughout his life, including the agricultural merit medal from King Juan Carlos in recognition of his work.
What to expect from the grape?
Many people often refer to Godello while speaking about Verdejo, some similarities are underlined like the fresh character of the wine. In my opinion, Verdejo is a wine of a different complex and character. Yes, both might work very sharp (but not in the sense of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley), but the overall character is different, it’s much more fruity with stronger tropical fruits aromas on the palate, as well on the nose. Those features come from the simple fact that the grape is very versatile, 100% Godello from Ourense will have a very different character than the one from Valdeorras and Bierzo, even though they are located next to each other sharing similar soil and climate, it all comes down to the winemaker.
So what one can expect when reaching for a Godello bottle? Generally, Godello wines are mostly on the medium-dry side, with acidity depending on the fermentation environment. The wines fermented and kept only in the steel tanks will generally remain more on the acidic side, and the wine will be much fresher in taste. The ones treated to oak will develop the vanilla-like character, while still keeping the fruit aromas. The typical aromas for Godello are grapefruit, quince, apricot, yellow plum.
Wines produced from Godello are to be drunk young. Just as the lifecycle of the grape — early grow, early ripening; the wines are also best in between 1–5 years in the bottle.
Most popular regions are in Galicia (Spain): Ourense, Ribeiro, Valdeorras and Bierzo.
Typical aromas include grapefruit, quince, apricot, yellow plum.