The Grape Behind Italy’s Prosecco Wines
by Maurizio Broggi, Wine Scholar Guild
Glera is the principal grape of Prosecco sparkling wine. Originally the grape was known as Prosecco (more precisely Prosecco Tondo). The variety has an unclear origin and an even more complicated ampelographic history due to the fact that several distinct varieties have been called “Prosecco-something” in northeast Italy since the 18th century. The grape is late-ripening and prone to both fungal diseases and water stress. It is widely planted in the province of Treviso.
Glera is considered a semi-aromatic variety, although when grown on flat land with unrestricted yields, it becomes rather neutral. If planted on south-facing slopes with controlled yields, Glera produces wines with depth and character. The wines are light, soft and refreshing with aromas of white flowers, lemon, pear, apple and peach.
From Prosecco to Glera
Before 2009, Prosecco was produced under the Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOC in addition to several Prosecco IGTs (Prosecco Colli Trevigiani, Prosecco Marca trevigiana, Prosecco del Veneto, Prosecco Alto Livenza, Prosecco delle Venezie) that covered other areas of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. In 2009, two new quality wine designations were introduced with the aim to protect and regulate Prosecco wines. The district of Conegliano Valdobbiadene was elevated to DOCG while the various Prosecco IGTs were united and elevated to a single Prosecco DOC.
In order to identify Prosecco as a designation of origin, the name of the Prosecco grape had to be changed or producers from other regions could grow and make Prosecco wines! Glera, a Friulan synonym for the Prosecco grape, was chosen as the new name. The decision to re-name the grape Glera was controversial because Glera was actually a generic name used in Friuli Venezia Giulia to refer to several distinct varieties. In fact, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Glera was often used as a synonym for Prosecco Lungo, the other main (but distinct) variety of Prosecco/Glera.
The new Prosecco DOC was accepted by the EU, after the town of Prosecco (supposedly where the grape originated) was included in the amended boundaries, even though it was not previously included in the Prosecco IGTs. The town of Prosecco is actually located in Friuli Venezia Giulia’s province of Trieste.
The approval of the new DOC was also granted because of historical record. Veneto’s province of Treviso has been known for the production of Prosecco since the 19th century and accounts for 90% of all Prosecco wine.
Since Prosecco is now a protected place name, any wine produced from Glera outside Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, Asolo Prosecco DOCG or Prosecco DOC, must be labeled as IGT using the varietal name Glera on the label. The Prosecco name can no longer appear on IGT labels or on any label outside of Italy.
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Maurizio Broggi is a Native Italian, DWS and Certified Sommelier. He is Wine Scholar Guild's Education Director for Italy and creator of the Italian Wine Scholar study & certification program.