Pétillant Naturel wines, dubbed Pét-Nats by the hip wine scene of today, are the trendy new-but-old style of wine everyone is getting excited about. These wines are actually made using a method that pre-dates the Champagne style – and is way cheaper to do. Much like your parents’ old band tees and bell bottom jeans, they are back, and back with a vengeance.
Known for their al natural outlook on life, Pét-Nats have no added sulfites (although sulfites do occur naturally in small amounts) and little to no additives, making these wines pretty kickass. They range from white to rosé to red, vary in sweetness levels and differ in how soft and sudsy to full blown bubbly they are. They are usually low in alcohol, and more often than not fall in a reasonable 20-something price range. You could pretty much say with the diversity of these wines there’s a Pét-Nat for everyone in the family… or at least the over 21 crowd.
This style of wine originated in France and is said to be the O.G. of the sparkling wine family. The words Pétillant Naturel are translated to “mildly, naturally sparkling.” The production method that is used to transform these still wines into rad sparklers is known as méthode ancestrale.
The process goes a little something like this:
The wine is bottled during its primary fermentation, when the sugar in the grape juice is still transforming into alcohol. Then, the winemakers slap a crown cap on the bottle (much like a beer bottle), sealing in the carbon dioxide that is naturally created during fermentation. This is ultimately what converts the still wine into bubbly. Voilá – there you have it kids, naturally sparkling wine!
Even though the méthode ancestrale process is indigenous to France, these effervescent wines are made all over the world – from Slovenia to California and back to the Loire Valley of France (aka the motherland). In my studies (drinking) of Pét-Nats I have found one dominant consistency: THEY ARE ALWAYS CHANGING. Which makes them a curious thrill of a wine. When popping a Chablis or pouring a glass of California Cab we have at least an idea of what is about to hit our palates.
Undoubtedly, Pét-Nats are the hipster of the wine universe who shop local, wear Birkenstocks and use vegetable oil to run their car. They may never be as popular as Champagne, but they do deserve some steamy love for keeping this crazy world a little more sustainable!