Prosecco has been responsible for an abundance of joyful and economical sparkling wines, flooding the market with fruit-forward expressions that make no pretence to rivalling Champagne. Australia makers have caught the Italian wave like few other countries, but a tussle over naming rights might see the grape rebranded as glera, which Italian law now mandates.
Also known as
Prosecco used to be a simple story: the name of the grape and the Italian DOC(G)s where it was made. Then the rules changed, and Prosecco referred only to the origin and not the grape. Glera is an historic name for the variety, and it is now used in Italy, and pretty much nowhere else, with New World makers reluctant to change. And unless court action or trade lobbying is successful, you won’t find glera on a label here anytime soon.
What prosecco/glera tastes like
Glera is not a hugely aromatic grape, but the fizz lifts that profile somewhat. The flavours tend to green apple and pear, white peach and small white flowers, like elderflower. Wines can be dry of on the sweeter side, with the confusing “extra dry” category not being extra dry at all, but more off dry.
Vineyard & winemaking
Glera is a fairly neutral grape that holds its acid very well, and concentration of flavour is not a major factor in making the simple sparkling wines that it is mainly destined for, so yields can be generous. Glera also develops flavour without needing to be particularly ripe. Most glera is made into sparkling wine by the Charmat/Marinotti method, which traps the carbonation from fermentation in temperature-controlled tanks, with the wine that is then bottled ready to go – no secondary ferment. Some makers use the metodo classico or Champagne method for bottle fermentation, though mainly in the new world, while there is growth in an older Italian method called col fondo, where the wine finishes fermentation or is refermented in bottle. Col fondo means “with the bottom”, so the dead yeast cells that form from fermentation (the lees) sink to the bottom and aren’t disgorged, unlike Champagne. They add both texture and flavour. There are also some simple still wines made from glera in Italy, though they are uncommon.
Where is prosecco/glera grown?
The historic zone for glera is in the Treviso hills in the Veneto, in the north-east, as well as in neighbouring Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It is a grape that has been used in sparkling wines for some time, though still wines are invariably made, too, with methods changing much as technology has, meaning the Proseccos of today don’t resemble truly traditional wines. The grape – and there are two distinct types which are generally talked about as one – is concentrated in the Veneto, accounting for 94 percent of the vines, while Friuli soaks up almost all the balance. In Italy, Prosecco can also contain 15 per cent of bianchetta, chardonnay, perera, pinot pianco, pinot grigio and/or pinot nero (noir) made as a white wine. (It’s worth noting that Australian laws allow up to 15 per cent of any other grape while still labelling a wine as being from a single variety.)
Prosecco/glera around the world
Unsurprisingly, glera spills over the border into Slovenia, but apart from that it doesn’t have much of a presence outside of Italy in either the New or Old World, which is perhaps unusual considering the global behemoth brand Prosecco is. The largest plantings in the New World are in Brazil, followed by Australia, with Argentina trailing well behind.
Prosecco/glera in Australia
Glera came to Australia in the 90s with Otto Dal Zotto – who was born in the Prosecco homeland of Valdobbiadene – fulfilling a long-held dream to plant a meaningful vineyard with the grape in 1999. Others with Italian heritage followed, with Victoria’s King Valley becoming the epicentre for the grape in this country, though the warmer zone of the Murray Darling also contributes a significant haul of the grapes. Wines are generally made in a very straight up and down style, but Dal Zotto make half a dozen quite different expressions, and small producers like The Story and Vinea Marson are making intriguing examples using the col fondo method.
Photo of prosecco/glera grapes seen here, courtesy of Chalmers vineyard.
Some of the best Australian prosecco/glera