White wine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Spain. This is the land of oak- heavy Riojas and high alcohol Garnacha, and of course there is Cava… but there are several interesting white varietals worth checking out that can produce world-quality, beautifully balanced still wines.
Godello is one of Spain’s highest quality white grapes, I would say one that is competing with Albarino for the top spot of Spain’s most interesting grape. Godello shares the soft apricot flavor of Albarino, but is richer, silkier and softer. Depending on the producer, Godello can be almost as minerally as Albarino, however. With a perfect combination of fruit and acidity, these wines can also age in the bottle for quite a few years and are perfect food companions. In many ways, the top Godellos can compare to many fine white Burgundies.
Native to north-west Spain and Portugal (it’s almost certain to be the same grape as Verdelho in Portugal), Godello went almost extinct in 1980s, but luckily has been replanted and thrives in the Valdeorras region of Spain. Like Chardonnay, it can be produced in a variety of ways, and takes to oak as nicely as it does when just vinified in stainless steel. Sometimes Godello can be reminiscent of Chenin Blanc or Viognier, again – depending on the producer and the way the wine was made. I prefer a moderate amount of lees stirring, and a good presence of minerality for the elegance and purity of the grape to shine through.
Bodegas Godeval was the first winery to bring Godello into the United States. The estate was founded in 1986 and the winery is located in Valdeorras in a restored monastery named Xagoaza. I was first introduced to this producer when working as a wine buyer in a New York wine shop, I was always pleased with the quality they produced, and it’s clear that they are expert makers of this grape.
Valdeorras is a mountainous region located in the eastern part of Galicia, and ideal for winemaking with its low rainfall, great diurnal temperatures and minerally slate soils. Godello is the dominant grape here, but Mencia is also grown for red wines along with a smaller production of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Loureira, Treixadura, Albarino and Torontes to name the main ones.
‘Cepas Vellas’ refers to old vines, and this wine is produced with 100% Godello grapes from 50 year old vines on average, located 500 meters above the ocean. All the grapes are hand harvested and indigenous yeast is used. The juice spends 5 months on the lees and is aged in stainless steel.
If you are a fan of Chardonnay or full bodied whites with good fruit and one you an drink at all occasions, seek out this Godeval Cepas Vellas Godello. It retails for about $20 in NY.
Light golden core, full bodied on the palate with great minerality and texture. Fresh citrus and ripe yellow apple, peach and pear flavors with well integrated oak and good acidity. The finish is long and minerally. A beautifully structured wine that showcases the elegance Godello can exhibit if done well.
Anything from green salads with asparagus and shaved fennel to creamy pasta dishes and spicy chili would work here. The wine is full bodied enough to partner with heavier dishes, but elegant enough to serve with appetizers and lighter fare. Traditionally in the Galician region Godello gets paired with seafood, I would therefore try out vegan crab cakes made from hearts of palm or a pain bagnat with “tuna” salad made with chickpeas.