If you drink sparkling wines, you’ve probably been drinking glera for years. I hadn’t realized it either.

This isn’t quite cutting-edge news, in the world of wine. Glera became specifically so back in mid-2009 when prosecco received D.O.C. status, its name only applicable to versions produced within a specific geographic part of Italy. Only about 160 producers in one small part of the Veneto near Treviso, in Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (map), now have the right to call what they make “prosecco”. This means that all producers of what was they previously thought to be prosecco are now known by the name “glera”.

The reason “glera” is starting to show up in articles now is timing. The name-change only applied to vintages starting in the fall of 2009, many of which are now available in shops. There are still plenty of prosecchi around from areas further afield, produced before 2009. This also means it is a word which is not yet in any of the mainstream Italian dictionaries I checked.

It all requires a bit of shuffling. Prosecco was the name of both grape and drink. Now that the drink of that name has D.O.C. status, the grape is changing its name. Name-changing grape varietals are surely not that frequent an occurrence, especially when the grape was already in such widespread cultivation.

The word is an old synonym for the grape, apparently, but my initial half-hour of internet and book searching for an explanation have so far not explained it. A nickname specific to a particular place? (Presumably it is not related to places by that name in Iceland (a river) and Norway,) A previously-defunct, now revived word? What was “glera” doing while waiting for its revival?

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*© S. Worthen 2009