Galicia’s Answer To Sauvignon Blanc

2 March 2013
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She crab soup with sherryUnadventurous wine lists at corporate parties and weddings tend to read something like this: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauvignon Blanc tops the list so often because it tends to be fruity and very food-friendly, with fun, juicy acids. But if you’re itching to get out of the Sauvignon Blanc rut — and if you’re reading this, I suspect you are — I’ve got just the white for you: Godello.

This variety indigenous to Spain’s northwestern Galicia region almost became extinct thanks to Phylloxera, and it languished in obscurity for years. It was only “recently re-discovered,” according to the 2001 edition of André Dominé’s Wine, and the Galician region best known for producing Godello, the rainy Valdeorras D.O., now “regularly hits the headlines of the Spanish trade press.”

All my wine books speak highly of Godello grown in Valdeorras. The World Atlas of Wine argues that it “can yield extremely fine wines worth ageing,” and The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia notes that “The best [Valdeorras] wineries have now been modernized and are even better than they used to be, particularly for white wines made from the Godello grape.”

Even so, it can be hard to find this “fine white grape variety” (The Oxford Companion to Wine), because Galician vineyards and wineries tend to be small, with necessarily limited production, and much of what is produced is consumed locally. The Galicians know a good thing when they taste it. I felt very lucky, therefore, when I spotted it on the wines-by-the-glass list at Carter’s Kitchen, a delightful casual restaurant tucked away in Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina.

Carter’s Kitchen offered the 2011 Valdesil Montenovo Godello for $8 a glass, one of the least-expensive wines on the list. I needed something with some serious acids to compete with the decadent seafood I’d just ordered, and the Godello proved up to the challenge. It started with some sweet, apply fruit, but this was quickly overtaken by focused, limey acids which carried through to a white-peppery finish. The wine cut right through the richness of a creamy and thick she crab soup (pictured above), and it kept its laser focus against some beautifully fresh fried “doormat flounder” as well.

I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again with seafood, pork, chicken, pasta with cream sauce, risotto… Its juicy fruit and tight acids ensure that it can stand up to all sorts of rich foods, clearing the palate to prepare for the next bite. Keep an eye out for Godellos — if you like Sauvignon Blanc, a nervy Godello from Galicia will be right up your palate.


2011 Valdesil Montenovo Godello: Fruity but focused, with tight acids that can shine right through a host of rich foods. An excellent escape from a Sauvignon Blanc rut. Chill well before serving.

Grade: B+

Find It: Williams-Sonoma sells this particular Godello for $15, but don’t worry if you can’t find this specific label. Binny’s, for example, lists nine different Godellos on its website ranging in price from $10 to $50 a bottle. Also check out my review of this Godello from Galicia’s Monterrei region.


The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly In Galicia

30 November 2011
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I love when out-of-town friends come to visit, giving me an excuse to splash out on a fancy restaurant or two. It’s especially fun when those visitors happen to be from New York — a city known for thinking it has the best of everything — because Chicago’s culinary scene officially rocks.

Mercat a la Planxa, an upscale Catalan (tapas) restaurant in The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, has been on my list for a couple of years. The food and wine from Catalonia in northeastern Spain almost never fail to impress me, and I wanted to see if Mercat did this region proud. The food indeed delighted us both, particularly the eye-rollingly delicious rabbit-filled agnolotti topped with roasted chestnut purée, brandied cherries and brown butter (pictured). But I must admit I failed to order a single Catalan wine from the by-the-glass list.

Only two were offered, one of which I already knew and loved, the floral Viña Esmeralda by Torres. I opted instead for a 2010 Finca Os Cobatos Godello from the Monterrei D.O. (Denominación de Origen, or Orixe in Galician). Completely unfamiliar with either the Godello variety or the Monterrei wine region, I had no idea what to expect. The wine had a fresh, green aroma, and it tasted juicy and a bit floral, with food-friendly acids. Had I been served it blind, I might have guessed it was a fun Sauvignon Blanc from some New World appellation.