If you’ve been to our wine cellar, surely you’ve encountered a pét-nat before, even if just by sight (the sparkling wine section is right in front of you when you walk in, after all!). Reading this piece will hopefully clarify any questions and wipe away stigmas or misconceptions that may be stopping you from trying it.
First of all. What is a Pét-Nat?
A pét-nat, or pétillant naturel, is a soft, sparkling wine made via méthode ancestrale and that has completed its fermentation in-bottle. Originating in a French monastery from before the Champagne method (sometime in the 1500s), the méthode ancestrale was picked up in Vouvray around the ‘90s by a handful of winemakers including Pascal Poltaire and Thierry Puzelat. 500 years after its inception, the rest of the world started to develop an interest around the 2010’s. Pét-nats are now made and sold all over the world. In order to continue fermentation in-bottle, these wines usually don’t have sulfites and are unfiltered - hence, there is usually a sediment of lees (dead yeast cells) at the bottom.
Although it has naturel in its name, pét-nat isn’t necessarily a natural wine by default. Actually, any grapes can be turned into pét-nat, including ones that have been grown using industrial methods and pesticides. What is true however, is that you will find more natural winemakers venturing out with this style: it’s experimental, it’s creative and it’s definitely not easy to nail (it sounds a lot like natural wine, doesn’t it?!).
What does Pét-Nat taste like?
Pét-nat’s winemaking is short and sweet, but this wine comes in as many flavours as there are many wine grape varieties!
Typically, they all tend to express fruitier, fresher notes. The differences between still wine and pét-nat don’t stop at their delicate moussage either. Take Jousset’s Exilé line: The Exilé Blanc and the Blanc Pétillant are the exact same blend - 50% Chenin Blanc, 50% Colombard. The latter is also one of few examples of pét-nat with no cloudiness, as the sediment is disgorged post-fermentation. After trying both side by side, it is immediately prevalent that the pét-nat offers a substantial difference to its non-fizzy sibling.
The still Exilé Blanc is crisp with notes of fresh quince and fresh herbs. It evolves after some breathing with more rounded, stone fruit and citrus notes. The pétillant, on the other hand, is more straightforward being on the creamy side and immediately offering fresh stone fruit notes.
Time to get fizzical!
If you’re interested in trying a pét-nat but never have, picking up your first one may be intimidating. But we’re here to help!
The first and most reliable method is to choose from a winemaker that you trust and tried other wines of before.
The second way you can narrow your choices, is to pick a pét-nat made from grape varieties you know you like. Take this with a grain of salt however, because without the proper research done, your purchase could turn out to be sour grapes; in this case perhaps sweet. Because the fermentation is finished in-bottle, some of these cuveés are also intended to be on the sweeter side from the residual grape sugar.
Otherwise, you can always come down to La Cabane and ask us to pick one for you or simply browse our selection online!