Pet-Nat, or “Petillant Naturel” as it is more formally known, has made a strong appearance in the wine scene in the past few years – and for good reason. This winemaking method, also known as “Methode Ancestrale”, results in a light, lower-alcohol, and slightly sparkling characteristics that make this stuff not only delicious, but also incredibly food-friendly. There’s no pretentious air that can come with Champagne, but what there is, is a cool factor not associated with Proseccos.
These wines are made in a similar way to Champagne, except that instead of going through two full separate fermentations, pet-nat is bottled while the first fermentation is still going, resulting in a bit of unfermented sugar (slight sweetness), and trapped CO2. It’s typically capped under crown-cap, and is meant for drinking now, although it could have interesting aging potential, as the yeast are trapped inside the bottle, which in Champagne results in some of the best flavor characteristics – think brioche and toast – yum. But in my opinion, don’t save these, they’re really made for drinking right now. You might find some sediment inside when you open them, which is totally normal, so just roll with it.
Where are these being made? Everywhere from southern France to the Jura to California to Long Island. They’re almost always less expensive than Champagnes, and provide a great opportunity for the consumer to try something new without it being too intimidating. They’re meant to be fun!
Here are two of my favs – one old world, one new world:
The story begins with here: Eric Texier, a winemaker in the southern Rhone Valley in France, found a plot of Chassellas. Now this grape is native to the shores of Lake Geneva, where it is considerable colder. However, given he had these interesting vines, he decided to do something with the grapes, and while a still wine would not work well, the potential for a tasty sparkling was high. While the residual sugar is still between 15-20 g/L, it doesn’t show, and the slight sweetness balances it out perfectly, making it an ideal wine to eat with. At this value price, eat it with whatever you want… but I’m thinking some take-out curry would be ideal.
(Thanks to fellow awesome wine blogger Whitney A for this pic)
Coming from the Tuller Vineyard on the west side of Seneca Lake, in the Finger Lakes region of New York is a bright, local interpretation of Pet Nat. It’s slightly cloudy (the yeast are still in there, but not to worry, they don’t affect the flavor in any bad way), and gives a fair amount of savory aromas on the nose. While complex, with pear, honey, and bitter notes, this wine does hit to a well-made cider.
According to the winemaker, Kris Matthewson, the trick to making a quality Pet Nat lies in the fact that you are “stripping away many of the tools winemakers use to guide the wine to the ideas they have for it. Nature is really in control and you are just guiding the wine to the bottle”.
We may be at the end of summer, but there’s still time for some light sparklers (I think there’s always time for sparkling), and here in NYC it’s still a cool 90 degrees – so drink up!