Pét-nat wines 6-26-2024

Pét-Nat or Pétillant-Naturel. What the heck is that “next big thing” in wine?

The “next big thing” designation is ironic because, in truth, it is the oldest thing in sparkling wines. It was how sparkling wine was made before the development of the methods you know today. In English, Pétillant-Naturel simply means “naturally bubbling.”

Pét-Nat is made using a technique—“méthode ancestrale”—that originated in Limoux in southern France in the 1500s. It involves a single fermentation. Méthode champenoise or “traditional method” uses two fermentations to make Champagne and other sparkling wines.

Bottling takes place before the primary fermentation is complete. Yeasts remain actively converting sugars into alcohol. And into CO2—the bubbles. The wines tend to be lower in alcohol with softer, more delicate bubbles than sparkling made using traditional methods. Because there is less pressure—half that of Champagnne—Pét-Nat typically is sealed with a crown cap, the closure you find on beer or soda pop bottles.

Pét-Nat usually is unfiltered, so it often is cloudy. Those are the spent yeast cells that created the alcohol and bubbles. It is made with a variety of grapes, resulting in a spectrum of colors and styles. There are a wide range of aromas and flavors. Often there is a slight sweetness, although there are dry examples. Adjectives like wild, funky, rustic often are associated with Pét-Nat.

Christian Chaussard in Vouvray revived the ancient technique in the early 1990s when he accidentally produced a fizzy wine by bottling before fermentation was complete. He found the wine tasty. Buyers found something new and trendy. Pét-Nat started being the “next big thing.” At first, there was more buzz about it than sales or availability warranted, but that changed. You likely can find Pét-Nat at a well-stocked supermarket today. It typically is affordable, casual, refreshing. Lower alcohol makes it attractive for everyday drinking and to those seeking to reduce alcohol intake.

A caution. Pét-Nat production is hard to control and requires winemaker skill. Results can be variable, depending on the grapes used and where they were grown. Quality is not guaranteed. Pét-Nat is a process description, not a narrow wine description.

Worth a sip, especially if you are a new and trendy sort of sipper.

Tasting note:

• Hager Matthias Pét-Nat Grüner Veltliner 2021: Refreshing, lower alcohol effort that is and trendy and versatile. Presents excellent fruit. Works well as aperitif. $20-29 Link to my review

Last round: I told my daughter to go to bed because cows were sleeping in the fields.
“What does that have to do with anything?” she asked.
“It means it is pasture bedtime,” I responded. Wine time.