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Posted: Tuesday, 18 August 2020 23:21

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GLERA- The Glorified Grape of Italian Bubbly Prosecco

Aug 18: For my Presentation on ‘Gaja and Glera’ for a Webinar on August 1, where I was requested to talk about an interesting anecdote and an indigenous grape variety, I chose Glera grape as it grown primarily in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in North Eastern Italy and 99% of the total world production is in this region alone, writes Subhash Arora who chose to open a bottle of Zonin Piccolo (200 mL) Prosecco for tasting as it is very convenient when only one person is drinking, especially at the Webinar where only a glass was enough

I visited the famous Conegliano-Valdobbiadene belt in Veneto in 2007 where they were making the famous DOC Prosecco wine whereas outside this area only cheaper IGT wines were being made-all from Prosecco grapes. I loved the bubblies-lighter, frothy and on rare occasions with brioche flavours like that of champagne, and generally with a lot of personality. I was quite impressed with Carpene Malvolti, Bisol and Villa Sandi in particular out of the wineries visited.

At less than a fourth of the cost of the Real McCoy, they are a perfect fit for the Indian market and so I really exhorted the President of the Consortium to send a delegation to India as there would be a good demand for Prosecco because of low prices. They rightly regretted my request and suggestion, and said India was not in their budget or on their radar for now as they pushed the promotion in the burgeoning US market - today the 600 million bottle industry is a result of their efforts during these years with the US being the biggest importer of Prosecco.

Prosecco from the North-eastern part of Italy has to be made within defined territory in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia as the DOC wine. The wines made in the classic area of the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene can be DOCG wines since 2009. Prosecco has the GI status and no other region in Italy or elsewhere may call their sparkling wine Prosecco.

Geographical Indication (GI) is recognition of a product originating in a country, region or locality where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the wines are essentially attributable to their geographical origin. Italy had been making the Prosecco bubbly since 1868 in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene belt, the classic hilly area in the north-eastern Veneto region, and Prosecco still wine for at least over 250 years. Till 2009, practically all the wines were DOC or IGT, with an extremely small amount of Superiore di Cartizze DOCG as well.

However, that changed in 2009 when the DOC was upgraded to DOCG while the IGT wines in a defined but much larger area were upgraded to DOC; a smart decision as the demand for Prosecco had been shooting up during the decade. Later it was also granted GI status giving them the authority to register it in any country or region outside the designated area of Prosecco. They took the necessary precaution of naming the grape used in the bubbly to Glera.

Glera is a long-standing synonym of Prosecco grape in the North-eastern Italy, and is now officially known as such. This green-skinned variety has been grown for hundreds of years in the Veneto and Friuli regions, most famously to produce sparkling Prosecco wines. It was decided that the name Prosecco should be reserved exclusively for wines covered by Italy's official Prosecco appellation title and should not be used for the grape variety. The European Union ratified this step thus making it illegal for producers anywhere outside north-eastern Italy to label their wines as Prosecco.

Glera (Prosecco) Grapes

The Glera/Prosecco variety is in fact several varieties. Although some authorities claim there are dozens of sub-varieties there are three key forms: Prosecco Lungo, Prosecco Tondo and Prosecco Nostrano. In one part of the region theygo by their local synonym Serprina. The origins of these varieties is also not clear.

A few still wines are also made from Glera as are some sparkling wines with Traditional method. The bubblies are Frizzante (fizzy) or Spumante (fully sparkling). It is a high yielding grape that ripens late in the season. It has a fairly neutral flavour with high acidity. This makes it ideal for sparkling wine production. Glera’s aromatic profile is characterized by white peaches. The wine is light-bodied with low alcohol- generally 11% although minimum allowed is 8.5 % ABV, making it a refreshing summer beverage or as an aperitif.

Over 99% of world production of this grape is in Italy and this region. A small quantity is produced by the neighbouring Slovenia and King Valley in Australia where the Consorzio lost the legal battle a few years ago but is fighting through the Italy-Australia FTA negotiations.

Pink Prosecco

Pink Prosecco DOC has also been allowed to be sold in the market from the 2019 harvest with 15% Pinot Noir and 85% Glera allowed in the blend, but will be available in the market this year. I believe it will help add an extra 40-50 million bottles a year. Pinot Noir has been selected as the red wine on the grounds of its potential to make higher quality. Some local producers are disappointed that the Consorzio does not allow the use of Italian red grapes, especially the native Raboso which is native to the eastern Veneto. But it is not authorised even in the production of Prosecco DOC which can use 10% of non Glera in the blend.

Zonin Piccolo Prosecco

Zonin 1821 had been making IGT Prosecco before 2009 to the tune of 20 million bottles. But according to Francesco Zonin, they are making 10 million bottles now. To give a proper perspective, it is almost the same size as the total production of Sula. What is attractive is the Piccolo bottles which are 200 mL size and were launched in India in 2016. Using a straw, or drinking directly from the bottle makes it an attractive USP, especially for the young millennials who like to break free from the traditions.

The packaging is practically popular with the youth or those who have nobody to share wine with in the house with. It is also very handy for picnics and parties. One is not worried about accidental explosions due to pressure in the bottle. At less than Rs. 600 a bottle, it is a great bet to use, even though it is slightly more expensive than on a full bottle basis. It is a very clean and fruity bubbly with white peaches on the nose. The wine is quite zingy and can also be very handy to make cocktails like Mimosa and Bellini etc.

Subhash Arora

 

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