Godello Wines Have Arrived

Meet Mr. Godello of Bierzo


I’d never heard of Godello until a few years ago but this Spanish white grape variety is now a regular on U.K. wine shelves. What’s more, it’s here to stay; it’s easy to pronounce, the wines taste good and, let’s be honest, we all like to tell our mates about a ‘new’ wine. Godello comes from north-west Spain where the vineyard areas of Bierzo, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei have taken this ‘new kid on the block’ to heart. I recently tasted several Godello wines from Bierzo where the variety thrives amongst the mountains, castles and pine forests of this beautiful vineyard region. That flight of dry, zesty, crisp citrus, apricot and peach wines made my day. Bierzo is a small, remote ancient region in the north-western corner of the Castilla y León province close to the border with Galicia, (north of the Portuguese border) and is one of Spain’s rising stars. Add Godello into the equation and…it’s looking good.
If you want to spend a few days in the vineyards the nearest airport is Vigo on the coast but if fancy walking, the market town of Cacabelos is a well known resting point along the world famous Camino de Santiago. When the pilgrims arrive in Bierzo with blistered feet ‘the end is in sight’ for Santiago de Compostella is just up the road.  
Bierzo gained its D.O. (Denominacion de Origin) in 1989 and comprises two zones, Bierzo Alto (high Bierzo), where terraced plots cling to steep slopes and Bierzo Bajo (low Bierzo), the plain below. The vineyards lie between 450 and 1000 metres above sea level, their soils varying from the alluvial plain to the prestigious high level slate. The region’s cool climate is a result of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Although summer temperatures can be in the mid to high twenties centigrade, winter temperatures as low as four degrees make it no surprise that the clever pilgrim takes to the well trodden path under the springtime sunshine.  
Bierzo is also slowly gaining reputation for its reds from the little known Mencia grape; like Godello they’re well worth searching out. For all my global anorak readers; for years it was rumoured that Mencia was related to Cabernet Franc, the classic red grape of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux but recent DNA tests show that the nearest link is Portugal’s Jaen variety. Don’t worry, I’d never heard of Jaen either!
Bierzo’s reds of old were simple rustic affairs but things have changed as a new generation of winemakers have realised Mencia’s potential to produce bright, juicy black fruit, plum wines. You’ll see ‘Crianza’ on the labels of Bierzo reds which means that the wine must by law be aged for a minimum of 6 months in oak barrels and a minimum of 18 months in bottle before hitting our shelves. ‘Reserva’ means that it must spend at least 12 months in oak and 24 months in the bottle before release into our glasses. 
So, look out for Bierzo red, you’ll be well rewarded but don’t forget the rising white star of this up and coming region…‘no more waiting for Godello!

John Downes, one of only 340 Masters of Wine in the world is a corporate entertainer, speaker, television and radio broadcaster and writer on wine. Check out John’s website at www.johndownes.com. Follow him on Twitter @JOHNDOWNESMW

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