Sporting a flavor that can be pungent and cider-like when compared to more common sparkling wines, pét-nat wines are making a comeback.
“Pétillant-naturel”, or pét-nat, is a term encompassing any sparkling wine that is bottled before the primary fermentation process has finished, known as “méthode ancestrale.” For comparison, champagnes and other sparkling wines utilize a secondary mode of fermentation through the addition of sugar and yeast.
The technique is hundreds of years old, but the name pét-nat is a term that came about in the 90s, according to wine director of Manhattan’s Contra and Wildair Jorge Riera. He states that winemakers Thierry Puzelat and Christian Chaussard looked into the method during their exploration of the French Loire Valley, “Puzelat and Chaussard were running around the Loire calling their sparkling wines ‘pét-nat,’ and from there that name just caught on and took off.”
The method has become popular in Italy, California and New York, where many wineries have begun to manufacture their own pét-nat offerings.
Because they are unfiltered, pét-nat wines can display a cloudy appearance, a fact that Brooklyn bar owner Joe Carroll believes will help bridge the divide between wine and beer consumers. At his rooftop bar Xanadu, many of his over 40 wine options are pét-nats. Carroll states, “Pét-nats show a lot of similar flavors to dry ciders and sour, funky beers, so it’s an opportunity to turn beer drinkers on to something new.”
The interest has led to many attempts at the style by California winemakers, but at Oakland’s Ordinaire wine shop, wine director Quinn Kimsey-White commented that many of them are non-starters.
“California winemakers sure are trying hard, but only a few have succeeded. One of my favorites is Twenty Five Reasons Sauvignon Blanc pét-nat from Kevin Kelley at Salinia. It’s cidery, herbal, and deeply refreshing.”
Either way, this revived practice is sure to bring some new tastebuds to the table.