Once again the dilemma, whether to title the post according to the summer "white wine grapes" theme or to call it what it is, a report on a particular white wine from Spain, Castelo do Papa Godello. This time we'll go with the theme.
Godello (go-DAY-oh) is another European grape that is mostly obscure historically but has now become quite fashionable. Indeed this one was almost extinct in the 1970's when bulk wine producers saw the more prolific but low quality Palomino grape as the order of the day. The 1980's saw the beginning of a Godello resurgence followed by decades of refinement as viticulturalists strove to compete with the then "best white grape of Spain", Albarino.
Godello is planted primarily in the Galicia district of northwestern Spain which is also where Albarino finds its fame. The primary Albarino DO is Rias Baixas on the Atlantic coast. Godello finds its finest expression in the Valdeorras DO, a hundred miles to the east. Twenty-five miles east of Valdeorras in the beginnings of Duero River Valley lies the Bierzo DO where Godello is also highly acclaimed. In northwestern Spain the locals pair their Godello with seafood, pork sausage, veal, tapas, herb pesto, pasta with cream sauces and aged cheeses.
Chardonnay is considered by many to be the finest white wine of all. In specific venues like Burgundy and Sonoma the claim seems to be justified. Chardonnay, however, is essentially a neutral but versatile wine making grape that can be manipulated by the skillful wine maker to achieve its utmost potential. Godello has been compared to Chardonnay in its essential pliable character but has yet to demonstrate the huge profile Chardonnay has.
Valdeorras means "valley of gold" and two thousand years ago Romans mined the stuff there. Today those same soils retain a high mineral content while being composed mostly of granite, slate, and clay. The Godello that comes from these soils surpasses Chardonnay in minerality and that component eclipses the fruit and spice in the wine's flavor profile.
The 2013 Castelo do Papa Godello in the store at this time is probably our best white wine under twenty dollars. The wine is made from the finest 20% of Godello grapes in the Ladera Sagrada estate vineyards in Valdeorras. The vineyards are organically farmed; the grapes are handpicked; and after an eight to twelve hour maceration, the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts. The resulting wine has aromas of rosemary, thyme, and oregano and flavors of lime zest, quinine, ginger, nuts, and apple and citrus, along with the overriding minerality.