An often mistaken and underrated varietal, Gouveio (go-v’eye’-yoo) is by far one of my favorite autochthonous grape varieties in Portugal. Many believe Gouveio is synonymous for Verdelho, but from what I’ve gathered, there’s no concrete evidence to prove its relation. Though similar in appearance to Verdelho, Gouveio is not only separate from the Verdelho used in Northern Portugal, but also the varieties used in the Azores (Verdelho de Pico) and in Madeira. There is also a confusion with the white Verdejo/Verdeja grape native to Spain’s Rueda, Cigales and Toro; but the only grape related to Gouveio is Godello, a varietal found in Galicia, located in the northwest corner of Spain. Other regional names in Portugal include: Gouveio Estimado, Gouveio Real and the genetic mutations Gouveio Roxo (rosé) and Gouveio Preto (red). Note: As there are very few photos in existence of a Gouveio bunch, we have provided a picture of a Verdelho bunch which is similar in appearance. If you have a photo we can use let us know: [email protected]
Historically, the most-widely used varietal in the northern region of Tras-Os-Montes and Douro, Gouveio gradually declined in popularity over the years. Currently, it’s often used as a blending grape in white Port or blended with its companion Malvasia Fina. But in a small section of the Douro, and in the sub-Region of Távora-Varosa (under the name of Gouveio Real), Gouveio is produced as a base in sparkling wines, called espumante. A relatively hardy and temperate varietal that is naturally high in acidity, Gouveio is renowned for its citrus fruit aromas that provide its wines a crisp and refreshing quality. Yet at the same time, its acidity and sugar are surprisingly well-balanced, offering aromas and flavors expressive of pale apple, peach and anise. Gouveio wines tend to be medium-dry with both a tart and creamy body, which I love.
One of the best examples I’ve experienced to date showcasing Gouveio as a monovarietal wine would be the 2004 Vertice Espumante Bruto Gouveio. Caves Transmontanas Lda, producers of Vertice, was founded in 1988 by Jack Davies of Schramsburg in Napa Valley, and was invited to Portugal by João R C Maia, a Douro based Port wine maker. The Gouveio Brut is a high-end, vintage methode-classique sparkling wine from Alto Douro and made from 100% specially-selected Gouveio grapes. Gouveio’s racy acidity makes for an exciting sparkling; while its creamy body ensures the acidity doesn’t overwhelm the palate in addition to supporting a graceful aging period. Pair it with roast chicken or turkey, or my new favorite, desserts such as yellow or lemon pound cake with vanilla or cream cheese frosting! The contrast of acidity refreshes the palate at the end of a large meal or birthday dinner (from my experience). Caves Transmontanas also produces 3 other methode-classique vintage Vertice Espumantes: the 2005 Super Reserva Bruto, 2006 Reserva Cuvée and the 2008 Bruto Rosé, all made from small productions of about 4-6,000 bottles and all highly-rated among sparklings. Furthermore, they make some delicious still whites and reds from Douro Superior and Cimo Corgo regions.
If you’d like to experiment with some lovely Gouveio blends, my first pick would be either the 2006 or 2008 Planalto Reserva (Douro) by Sogrape Vinhos, a blend of Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Viozinho and Codega. Other highly rated Gouveio blends are the 2008 Quinta do Crasto and Quinta do Vallado Reserva, both from the Douro Boys.
Cheers to Gouveio, we still love you!