Thanks for your replies, it's definitely been refreshing to get some new perspective. I'll naturally keep on following the thread (and subforum), and hopefully this proves to be helpful to other people too.
Looks like I've been thinking about how to manage the error handling sprinkled around all the GL code, when it probably could be more constructive to think whether it makes any sense to do it explicitly per command at all or generally how to keep this concern contained in it's own place. No point in extensive checking in release mode, point well taken, but also questionable much it makes sense to keep on following the eight or so relatively vague error codes alone even during development.
The once in a frame checking and runtime toggling of error reporting are things I haven't though of at all and they sound like sensible ways to avoid console or log spamming. When it comes to tools, last night I downloaded CodeXL, and should take a better look at it hopefully soon.