You see them on the shelves of hip bottle shops and on the lists at hot wine bars. They’re the indie darling of the natural wine movement and a bottle badge of adventuresome wine drinkers. Pét-Nat, short for pétillant naturel, may be trendy and new to you, but this is the oldest style of sparkling wine, made by monks in early 16th century in Limoux, France, and was the first way to capture bubbles in the bottle.
Produced by méthode ancestrale, the wine is bottled while it’s still undergoing primary fermentation, trapping the carbon dioxide in the bottle. This is unlike traditional method, as for Champagne, which sees the fully fermented base wine undergo a second fermentation in the bottle with the addition of yeast and sugar.
In the case of Pét-Nat, the wine is not disgorged like Champagne either, and may or may not be filtered after fermentation is complete, leaving some wines quite hazy and textural. Also in contrast to traditional method sparklers, the end result with Pét-Nats can vary, since each individual bottle is its own fermentation; there is no winemaker intervention to balance out, or correct the ferment.
The natural, rawness and rusticity is part of the appeal: these wines have about half the pressure of traditional fizz, and even less pretense, ranging from dry to sweet, are low in alcohol, topped with an easy-access crown cap and meant for drinking now, liberally. Here are three to try this holiday season.
Narrative 2015 Ancient Method, Okanagan Valley
A gem from Okanagan Crush Pad’s brand new Garnet Valley Ranch site, a 126-acre organic vineyard and farm in the Okanagan, marked as the valley’s highest elevation site. Pinot Noir is wild yeast-fermented in concrete and the nose is yeast-led, with light pear blossoms underneath. Crisp pear and pear skin guide the lively and vibrant palate, setting off a round core and ample riff of stones humming on the finish. Young, pleasant and quenching; exactly as it should be.
Division Winemaking Co. 2015 Gamine Pét-Nat, Applegate Valley
From Mae’s Vineyard in the Southern Oregon appellation, this Grenache Pét-Nat is fermented in stainless down to 20 grams per liter in sugar, before being cold stabilized to remove tartrates and stop fermentation. They kept the gross lees chilled separately, and then reintroduced it 30 days later before it rested in bottle for six months. Crisp, fresh and dry, with pithy white grapefruit and crystalline white florals. Snappy and grippy on the finish.
Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées FRV, Beaujolais, France
From one of the legends of naturalist winemaking in Beaujolais, this disgorged and clear Pét-Nat Gamay rosé opens with sweet strawberry jam and fragrant raspberry blossoms. A fine, grippy lick is found on the finish, afforded by the granite soils and minimal intervention in the vineyard or winery. Perfumed, pretty, off-dry and bright, and far too easily gulpable at 7.5 percent alcohol.