Pet Nat wine
Pét-What? The lowdown on Pét-Nat wine
I bet there’s some out there wondering what this cool, new wine thing Pét-Nat is, right? Funnily enough, this hip new trend is actually one of the oldest methods of making lightly sparkling wine in the world!
What is a Pét-Nat wine?
Pét-Nat is one of the oldest methods of producing sparkling wine. Wine juice finishes its fermentation IN the bottle, which gives the wine its bubble structure by itself. This means the exact bottle you get your Pét-Nat in is the same one it finished fermenting in and was laid to rest before being released by the winery. This is very different to most conventional Proseccos, for example where the 'tank method' is to create bubbles before bottling.
This way of making wine can be traced back to the monks of Limoux, Southern France, as far back as the 1500s. This long history has led to many in modern winemaking naming the production method the Ancestral Method.
What does Pét-Nat mean?
Pét-Nat stands for the french phrase pétillant-naturel which basically means natural sparkling. The popular abbreviation Pét-Nat is used because French wine label regulations ban the word naturel.
How does Pét-Nat wine taste?
Now the fun part - What do they taste like? They’re typically low alcohol, fresh, with vibrant fruit and often have a slight lingering sweetness on the palate. The mouthfeel is quite rounded and some can feel that bready/yeasty quality in the wines. The beauty is, that they are all different, the sheer amount of winemakers around the world making these wines keep it interesting for even the most seasoned veterans. My advice - try one, or two, or ten!
How is Pét-Nat made?
Currently, Pét-Nat wines are all the rage, but how are they made? Unlike the fully sparkling traditional method wines of Champagne, Cremant or Cava, these wines are produced by a single fermentation (traditional method wines see two fermentations).
The trick lies in the partially fermented juice being bottled, with no SO2 addition. The fermentation then finishes inside that very bottle. As the yeasts convert sugar to alcohol and complete their journey to dryness (some leaving a little residual sugar behind) the by-product of carbon dioxide is created and captured in the bottle - voila, bubbles!
If you’ve drunk a few pét-nats before, you’ve probably wondered why some are more sparkling than others (warning for first-timers: watch out for gushing Pét-Nat’s). Winemakers choose the amount of pressure they want in the final wine by measuring the sugar content of the partially fermented juice and bottling it at the right moment. That said, even the most exact science is a bit of an unknown and bottle variation is very common, as is batch variation.
Once the fermentation has finished, the wines are not disgorged and remain unfiltered, leaving a hazy glow that can be shaken up or left to settle at the bottom of the bottle - that’s your choice! Tip: try both ways and see which flavour profile you like the best.
Pét-Nat bottles are closed with a crown cap (like those used on some beer bottles) for no other reason than fashion, cost and ease of use. Mushroom corks (used in traditional method bottles) are a pain to insert and require specialist equipment, making them expensive.
How to open Pét-Nat?
As Pét-Nat's finish fermentation in the bottle, the wine producer has to make a decision whether or not to disgorge the bottle, to release of portion of leftover sediment, which can also reduce the pressure inside the bottle. Some undisgorged Pet Nats (usually identified by being much more cloudy) can be very explosive, and so it is always advisable to open any Pet Nat wine very cold, and carefully just in case it bubbles over and ruins your clothes or kitchen, as a small portion of them do. Use a continuous pour into several glasses or into a decanter so as to not kick up the lees at the bottom of the bottle. To avoid explosions you can pry the crown cap slightly and let the pressure fizzle out before fully opening the bottle.
How long does Pét-Nat last?
Pét-nat is not meant to be kept in a cellar. The wine can last a year or two if stored properly, but is not meant to be aged.
How to drink Pét-Nat?
Pét-Nats are intended to drink young; enjoy now while the wine is young and vibrant. Before consumption, chill the bottle overnight in the fridge or upright in an ice bucket for at least 30 minutes. We believe you should have fun with them rather than treat them too seriously! If you would like to try a Pét-Nat drinking game, watch our video!