Q: When is a Prosecco not a Prosecco?
A: When it’s a Glera
To my British ears at least, the grape’s historic name (pronounced ‘glair-uh’) isn’t nearly as attractive, lacking the snappy staccato bounce that makes Prosecco sound so full of bubbly brio. So why has the name ‘Glera’ been reinstated?
With the increase in global popularity of Prosecco in recent years, a large number of producers in the north-east of Italy have been merrily churning out the sparkling wine, often with scant regard for quality. Recognising the potential for the wine’s reputation to be sullied by a prevalence of poor examples, the consortium of producers in Prosecco’s heartland applied to the Italian government for a new Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantiza (DOCG) to be established for Prosecco, as a mark of quality only applicable to the best wines.
The government agreed, and in 2009, the EU ruled that the Prosecco name should only be used on sparkling wines produced within a designated Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) area of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Wines produced in specific communes around the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills of the Treviso region where the best vineyards are located, are considered superiore and are entitled to the higher DOCG status. Any similar wines produced outside of the designated zones must not be labelled as Prosecco, but may only use the new (old) varietal name, Glera. This great win for the established producers translates into a win for the consumer too: a guarantee of provenance, right there on the front label. If it says Prosecco, you now know it comes from a specific region noted for its sparkling wine production, and is made according to strict criteria, as with Champagne.
That’s where the similarity with Champagne ends, though. While many sparkling wine producers all over the world have striven to create the perfect Champagne-like Pinot/Chardonnay blend, Prosecco is an unashamedly unique style. The Glera grape offers a naturally delicate mix of blossom aromas and light citrus, pear and melon flavours, and the preservation of these characteristics is paramount in Prosecco production. Prosecco is made using the Charmat method, which differs from the methode champenoise in that the fizz-inducing secondary fermentation takes place in a large pressure-sealed tank rather than in bottle. Not only is this method much less expensive than filling, sealing, riddling, disgorging and then re-corking thousands of individual bottles, it also means that secondary fermentation is completed more rapidly, and without the intensive lees contact inherent in bottle fermentation.
The result is a great value sparkling wine with much more of its youthful primary fruit still intact. These delicate fruit flavours work equally well in both the dry and extra-dry (actually meaning slightly off-dry) styles, not forgetting the lightly sparkling frizzante style, with its gently palate-cleansing, food-friendly fizz. Prosecco isn’t for laying down in the cellar, it’s for cracking open at a party, or for swizzling into a refreshing peach bellini on a warm autumn afternoon, and generally has the effect of putting a big smile on everyone’s face. If you’re already a Prosecco fan, you might be thinking ‘al contadino non far sapere quanto è buono il formaggio con le pere’ (or something!), but if you haven’t tried it before, then now’s the perfect time to give it a pop.
Top-value Prosecco from one of Italy’s largest producers, this is a fruit-driven and friendly fizz, ideal for any occasion.
A gently off-dry Prosecco made from fruit sourced from vineyards in the hills around Treviso. A nose of melon and pear blossom, and a bright and uplifting mousse on the palate.
From the heart of Prosecco country, this is a classic example of the breed, with a lifted and floral nose, an invigorating fizz and a satisfying touch of fruit sweetness. A surprise hit with soft blue cheeses.
A premium dry Prosecco with a touch of extra firmness of structure and elegance. The clean, citrussy finish makes for a great match with fresh seafood.
A rare example of vintage Prosecco, made from fruit sourced from a small number of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene’s choices vineyard sites. Wonderful depth and richness of flavour, and a long, drying finish.
Prices valid until 31 October 2011.