Light and fresh and perfect for summer, here is everything you need to know to buy or order a pét-nat wine with confidence.
Pét-nat is the common abbreviated term for the French wine term pétillant naturel. These wines might seem new, as they are now becoming more and more popular, however they have been around for a very long time. In fact, pét-nats are probably some of the earliest wines ever made - they are sometimes referred to in French as methode ancestrale wines, or made in the ancestral style.
Many pét-nat wines are made with minimal intervention during the wine making, and they are usually produced using wild yeast for the fermentation of the crushed grapes, with little to no preservatives added. This means they can vary greatly, from being refined to quite wild and cloudy. They do tend to be a dry style of wine, with less residual sugar from the grapes helping to control the outcome of the fizziness.
The wines are bottled while still in the first stage of fermentation. When fermentation is happening, this naturally produces carbon dioxide, which is what produces the bubbles in the liquid. When the wine is bottled or sealed before the fermentation has completed, the bubbles can be stable under pressure until the wine is opened. With pét-nat wines, there is less control as to how the final fizz turns out and so they can vary from lightly sparkling to more aggressively sparkling if not made with care.
Pét-nat wines can be made from any grape and therefore can be any colour, but they do tend to be soft pink, or orange-hued, the colour produced right from when the grape skins are in contact with the juice (this is also known as skin-contact). Various grapes and winemaking techniques will give you different tasting wines. Pét-nats are often light and fresh and very easy to drink, but this is dependent on the winemaking and the environment they are made in. Due to the absence of preservatives, the areas the wines are made in and the style of winemaking, natural wines can be exposed to a natural yeast known as Brettanomyces, which can diminish the flavour of the wine and add a barnyard taste. Some winemakers like this element, but we prefer a clean-tasting wine where you can taste the fruit more. It’s a matter of different tastes.
If you haven’t tried this style before, go for one that's similar to a wine of your usual preference. Still not sure? Try one of thes wonderful options we're loving right now:
Blackhearts & Sparrows Lucy M Le Vilain Gris Petillant 2021, $40 (pictured at top).
Image via Blackhearts & Sparrows.