- An intro to Pet Nat
Spring is the time when Pet Nats start to arrive on our shelves! It’s one of the first wines of the new year to be bottled; new releases have been arriving at Pullo since April, and are still coming in. Now that picnic weather is here (hopefully to stay!) we thought we’d round up a few new arrivals for a closer look.
Firstly though - what is a Pet Nat? Pétillant-naturel (also known as méthode ancestrale), meaning natural sparkling, is believed to be the original method for sparkling wine production in France. Today Pet Nat production has exceeded the boundaries of their origins, and has become a general term for practically any sparkling wine made in this way. The wine is bottled before primary fermentation has finished, leaving it to complete fermentation in the bottle without the addition of secondary yeast or sugar. This traps carbon dioxide in the bottle and creates a natural fizz. By contrast, méthode champenoise or méthode traditionnelle (the method used to make Champagne, cremant and cava) means a wine that has finished fermenting undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with additional yeast and (sometimes) sugar.
Whereas Champagne styles take some time to make - with two fermentations and usually a long time ageing in bottle - Pet Nats are ready once the fermentation has finished and are intended to be drunk young. This simple style of production is reflected in the taste and feel in the bottle; Pet Nats are usually lighter in body, with lower alcohol, and tend to be easy-drinking & uncomplicated wines. Perfect for drinking in the sun, for picnics, brunches or as an aperitif.
Pet Nats tend to be more varied too, with a wide range of flavour profiles and a varied amount of fizz in the bottle, but typically with a more gentle sparkle. Flavours depend on grape variety & terroir of course, but also on how it’s made. You can choose not to disgorge, for example, and indeed many winemakers prefer not to. The result is often hazy or cloudy, sometimes adding a creamy edge to the wine. It also means there may be sediment in the bottle. All this adds flavour to the wine, but if you don’t like the cloudiness or you've got a wine with lots of sediment, resting it in an ice bucket for 30 minutes or so and then pouring carefully means most of it will be left behind in the bottle.
Following the rise of Pet Nats in the natural wine world, an increasing number of new cider makers have started experimenting with the style, too (although similar methods for bottle conditioned, naturally sweet ciders have been used in traditional cider making already.)
Pet Nats are generally the preferred sparkling style for makers who work naturally, because no additives whatsoever are needed in the process. Natural wine & cider-making is never about control, and making sparkling wine this way suits this approach of letting nature and time do most of the work. When the wine is bottled before it’s finished, there is always an element of unpredictability, which is part of the fun and excitement of it all!
Splash! Chateau Barouillet. Bergerac, France.
100% Semillon. Vincent racks this wine to retain some natural sugars, and does not disgorge. The result is light, sherberty & fragrant with a creamy touch.
Broco Lee, Vignereuse.
Pet Nats have a long history in this area and the method is here traditionally known as Méthode Gaillacoise. Marine works with a few local varieties in her winemaking, in this case Braucol. The process is gentle, with a short maceration on the skins, but the colour is vivid! This wine is disgorged, but not filtered. The result is light, dry & very refreshing.
Tinc Set, Ramon Jane. Catalonia, Spain.
This is made predominantly from Xarel-lo, the traditional grape variety for making Cava, but made here as a Pet Nat for a fresher style. The name means “I'm thirsty” in Catalan, and it is utterly thirst quenching - very crisp & slightly saline with a hint of tropical fruit.
Snicket & Pendragon, Find & Foster. Devon, UK.
For these Pet Nat style ciders, Polly is also using another method more commonly found in winemaking - skin maceration. The two are made in the same way but using different apple varieties, an interesting comparison! One is lemony & zingy, the other is mineral with apricot notes. Both are clean & fresh and with subtle aromatic qualities brought out by the skin maceration. Perfect summer drinking!