Fizzy and all the rage, pétillant naturel, or pét-nat, for short, may be experiencing a surge in glass pours and extra space on the bottle shop shelves, but these spritzy bubbles have been around for longer than you might think. Get to know exactly what pét-nats are about and then get sipping.
Pét-Nats: What They Are & How They're Made
Originating in France, pétillant naturel (roughly translating to "naturally sparkling") is a style of sparkling wine. The nature of the winemaking process is wilder and less controlled compared to other bubbly wines like Champagne or prosecco. While these wines go through two fermentations and get their bubbles in the second phase, pét-nats only go through one.
Pét-nats are made using a process known as the méthode ancestrale, or sometimes called artisanale. In this winemaking technique, the wine is bottled during its first and only fermentation. The yeasts convert the remaining sugars, producing carbon dioxide, which is then trapped underneath a crown cap. The result is a fizzy wine.
The méthode ancestrale style of making bubbly wine has been around longer than anything else due to its semi straight forward single fermentation. Even so, there is a real balance to creating wine in this style. The wine must be bottled at just the right time to achieve those bubbles. If it's bottled too soon, too much CO2 will build up, and the bottle can explode. On the flip side, if it's bottled with only a little bit of residual sugar remaining, the yeasts won't have enough food to consume, and the bubbles will fall flat.
This nuanced dance in the cellar means that pét-nats can be quite unpredictable, even bottle to bottle of the same wine in the same vintage. This is precisely why many people love them. They are truly a wild ferment, often with lively personalities that are brimming with flavor.
How to Know if It's A Pét-Nat
As if wine labels weren't complicated enough, pét-nats aren't always labeled as such. If they are labeled, they'll likely say one of the following: pétillant naturel, pét-nat, méthode ancestral, or bottle fermented. Another sign to look for is significant sediment lingering on the side or bottom of the bottle. Often, pét-nats aren't filtered, so there can be more lingering sediment than other sparkling wines. Finally, the crown cap is a good indication that it's a pét-nat.
Pétillant Naturel Flavors
Because pét-nats can be made with a variety of grapes or blends of grapes, the flavor profiles also vary. They may be brilliant shades of ripe raspberry, straw yellow, or delicate hues of a fading sunset. The color, aromas, and profiles will all depend on the grapes used and the climate and geography where the wine was made. Due to the the unpredictable winemaking style, you may get a bottle with a very subtle fizz or one with highly energetic bubbles. Because the winemaker has less control over the wine as it continues to ferment in bottle, wines may be dry, off-dry, or carry a residual sweetness. In other words, pét-nats are not your predictable commercially produced California cab sauvs. They are the wild children of wine that cultivate curiosity and celebrate diversity.
How to Store and Serve Pét-Nats
Pét-nats aren't generally made to age for long periods like that Barolo you've got in your closet. They are bright and vivacious wines that really should be enjoyed in their youth when they are full of fresh aromas and flavors. Drink them within two or three years of release. Like all wines, you'll want to store your pét-nat around 55°F (13°C) and away from light until you're ready to drink it.
|Storage temp.||55°F (13°C)|
|Serving temp.||40-45°F (4-7°C)|
|When to drink||Within 2 years of release|
|How to store||Store away from light|
When you're ready to pop the top, make sure you've chilled it down to around 40-45°F (4-7°C) so the bubbles and flavors are in their prime. Because each bottle will vary in carbonation, it's best to get your glasses ready and even open the bottle over a sink. Try to avoid agitating the bottle too much before opening it. The moment that crown cap comes off is an exciting one, often with a large display of rapidly flowing bubbles that will keep everyone on their toes. If extra active, quickly pour it into a glass while being aware of the lees collected on the bottom of the bottle. Some people prefer to avoid this fine sediment, but this additional texture and flavor can be a delicious part of the wine.
Pét-Nat Food Pairings
Bubbles are inherently fun and food friendly. The carbonated burst across your palate makes pét-nat a bright and refreshing pairing for a wide variety of foods, including richer, fattier foods like fried chicken and mac and cheese. Typically, the pét-nats are lower in alcohol, between 10-13%, which makes them a delight to drink in a variety of scenarios. Need an afternoon beach wine? Reach for a pét-nat rosé along with your bag of potato chips. Want something for your fish and chips party? Go for an acid bomb, cool-climate riesling pét-nat. While pét-nats may have the cute new kid on the block reputation, make no mistake. They can be complex and compelling too. Start chatting with your local bottle shop owner to get insight on particular bottles or producers they carry.
A Few to Look For
Overwhelmed and not sure where to start? There are a few domestic and international pét-nats not to miss if you're looking to embrace these hazy bubbles.
From Oregon, look for Swick City Pop pét-nat. Made with a handful of aromatic white and red varietals into an orange wine, the texture-driven wine is full of orange zest, mandarin, and brioche notes. Another Oregon gem is the David Hill pétillant naturel made from riesling. With great acidity and notes of green apple, citrus peel, and fresh ginger, this is a brilliantly bright wine with an edge of complexity that will have you wishing you bought a second bottle.
On the other side of the ocean, Milan Nestarec is showcasing the aromatic white grapes, müller-thurgau, neuburger, and muscat in his Danger 380 Volts pétillant naturel. This is an example of how a pét-nat can level up to any other sparkling with its complex floral nose and sophisticated palate. In Adelaide Hills, Australia, James Erskine of Jauma Wines makes a delicious bottle of bubbles called, Fujisan, from chenin blanc. With a prominent profile of orchard pear and airy yellow cake, this one has balanced acidity along with a soft palate that will give you a new perspective on chenin.
All the Fizz
Pét-nats are a great exploration of bubbles that really give you a mouthful of energy. Their unpredictable, wild nature makes each one unique. If you haven't already, start searching out a few star bottles, and you'll quickly understand why they're all the talk.