Godello, the fortunately rescued Spanish native grape
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
People asked about my first experience with Godello. On the first sniff, I asked myself, "is it Chardonnay? Hey. Hang on". With bright gold colour blinking at my eyes, ripe, honeyed carambola (starfruit), lemon curd, and camomile awakened my nose. While the modest acidity with Viognier-like texture was refreshing my palate, the cheering lemon and juicy apricot were dancing on the floor. With all still in play, the layers of camomile notes gradually evolved into fennel-like minerality, clapping long for the curtain call.
Had it not been for some passionate growers who aimed to preserve indigenous varieties in Spain, Godello was nearly extinct when most vines there were uprooted for more high-yielding varieties in the 1970s. Now, Godello is undoubtedly the white grape to go for in Valdeorras, northwestern Spain, where it currently still accounts for only a tiny per cent of the vineyards. Valdeorras, "Valley of Gold" in English, got its name as it was the place for metal mining in the Roman times about 2000 years ago where the golden metal products have now replaced by a bright gold fermented grape juice!
The Godello I have just tasted is Valdesil Pezas da Portela Godello 2012, which is made from eleven small plots of Godello planted since 1880, allegedly having preserved the oldest Godello clone in the world. Have a tour at the vineyards, and you will see the gnarled old Godello vines standing on their own roots. Old vines tend to lose productivity with age. Many believe that this results in higher fruit concentration and hence more concentrated resulting wine. This, together with the time of the wine spending with lees after fermentation with weekly battonage, has further enhanced the structure, mouthfeel and complexity of the wine.