The Glera Grape behind Prosecco Wine
Glera is the grape variety (the type of grapes) used to make the ultra-popular Prosecco sparkling wines. Glera is essentially the synonym of Veneto’s Prosecco grape of northern Italy. The name by which it is now officially known.
Top Interesting & Fun Facts about Glera/Prosecco
Prosecco wines MUST be made from a minimum of 85% Glera grapes using the tank method (Charmat);
Glera is a semi-aromatic variety meaning it can be rather fragrant, floral and fruity when grown with care and low yields;
Prosecco is always a white wine, mostly grown in Veneto with a small percentage in Friuli–Venezia Giulia;
Prosecco DOC is the largest denomination of origin in Italy and Glera produces the highest volume of any Italian DOP;
Originally the grape was known as Prosecco (and several variants such as Prosecco Tondo) but the name was changed in 2009 in order to protect the Prosecco name from international appropriation;
There is an actual town called Prosecco, located in Friuli Venezia Giulia’s province of Trieste;
Since 2013, more bottles of Prosecco are sold globally than even bottles of French Champagne (307 million bottles of Prosecco sold in 2013 versus 304 million of Champagne that year);
The fermentation of Glera in tanks rather than in bottle like in Champagne results in more affordable sparkling wines;
Not all Prosecco is sparkling! Most are indeed spumante (abundantly bubbly), but some come as the slightly fizzy version called frizzante, or even entirely still as tranquillo (although these are rarely seen outside of Italy);
Prosecco has both DOC and DOCG status. Standard Prosecco comes under the Denominazione di Origine Controllata “Prosecco DOC”. But some small vineyards areas with vines growing in limestone-rich and steep hillsides benefit from the “Prosecco Superiore DOCG” appellation such as Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Cartizze, Asolo or Rive.
For example, our Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG extra dry "Ariò" and Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG brut "Matiù", both from L'Antica Quercia, perfectly prove this point.
Glera: The Grapes behind Prosecco Bubblies
As said before, Prosecco wines must be made predominantly from Glera grape, which must account for 85% of the final blend. Other permitted varieties (up to 15%) are both local (Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera and Glera Lunga) and classic international grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco/Blanc, Pinot Grigio/Gris and Pinot Nero/Noir). When grown in the large Venetian plains with virtually unrestricted yields, Glera’s expression can become rather neutral due to a lack of aromatic compound concentration. But when planted on well-exposed slopes (south-facing and sunny ones) with controlled yields, Glera can produces fragrant wines. Limestone terroir adds depth, leanness, and finesse to the Prosecco wines such as those found in the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG vineyards. The grape is relatively late-ripening and prone to fungal diseases. Glera is also susceptible to water stress and requires soils with good water retention properties. Glera grapes are most often machine-harvested, although some DOCG regulations command grapes to be picked by hand.
From Prosecco to Glera: The Reason for a Name Change (2009)
Because before 2009, Prosecco was the name of the grape used to make the sparkling wines that came under the “Prosecco IGT” label (Typical Geographical Indication of origin, or Indicazione Geografica Tipica) in northern Italy, any other country and winery outside of Italy could potentially use it. To prevent the international wine scene from using the original Prosecco name and protect their heritage, Italian authorities changed the name of the grape to Glera, and then claimed the name Prosecco as a protected indication of a place. The presence of the town named Prosecco located in the province of Trieste (Carso triestino) which was historically linked to the origin of the grape variety which was already listed in the National Register of Grape Varieties as a historical synonym of Prosecco legitimised the claim before the EU authorities. This official recognition taken by the Italian Ministry for Agricultural and Food Policies in collaboration with the European Union, allowed preventing imitation and exploitation of the name. Because the EU has agreements with many countries around the world to protect its indications of origin wine producer outside of the Italian Prosecco DOC and DOCG denominations area may not use the term on a wine label, but only the term Glera.
History of Glera in Brief
The earliest documentation concerning the cultivation of Prosecco variety in the Veneto region dates back to 1754. The 1870 the book “Ampelografia Generale della Provincia di Treviso” includes a Prosecco bianco, tersely defined as a “favourite variety for fine wine”. In 1907, in the “Rivista della Scuola di Viticoltura ed Enologia di Conegliano” (The Journal of the Viticulture and Oenology School of Conegliano), F. Antonio Sannino provided a rather detailed account of the Prosecco cultivars growing in the Treviso hills.
In more recent times, after World War II, Prosecco was given its first boost in development and its first protection by the law on the Denominazioni di Origine dei Vini (Delimitation of Wine Origins).
Image credits: Al Soot