Pét Nat: the trendiest fizz in town
Author: Olivia Bodle
Pétillant naturel (literally “natural sparkling”) wines are quite divisive. The snappy abbreviation of this traditional style is Pét Nat. Bottled partway through fermentation, the remaining sugar is converted by yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is trapped in the bottle and produces a gently sparkling, often cloudy, wine. While en vogue with sommeliers and hipsters now, these wines are made in the méthode ancestrale – almost certainly the oldest way of creating fizz.
First made fashionable by a new wave of producers in the Loire, you’ll now find Pét Nat popping up from Australia, California and beyond. There are no rules on grape or region; they can range from slightly sweet to almost dry, varying in colour from white to red, but shades of orangey-brown do seem to pervade. These idiosyncratic wines are poo-pooed by many; but are they actually good or just a passing fad?
It is no surprise that the hipster interest in minimal intervention and natural wines has caught onto the Pét Nat trend. Pét Nats are bottled with zero sulphur or additives, and tend to be more lightly sparkling, losing their fizz more rapidly in the glass. The lo-fi mentality of the winemaking is often echoed with a funky label. You’re most likely to see it drunk by the glass in Hackney by guys with beards and clear-framed glasses, and girls wearing chunky Fila sneakers. The phenomenon is by no means widespread; these are niche products within a niche industry, but they undoubtedly offer something new.
Refreshing and a touch more authentic than some bubbles, Pét Nat is an affordable luxury – often offering pure fruit and crisp flavours. Designed to be drunk young, they tend not to be bottled under cork, but with a crown cap. While – like any natural wine – you need to choose carefully, with an expert hand essential in producing something good; at their best, Pét Nats are the perfect summer refreshment.
2016 Birichino, Pétulant Naturel Malvasia Bianca, Monterey, California: The tongue-in-cheek name of Birichino’s Pét Nat is two fingers up to an already carefree style. This Malvasia Bianca is all about floral freshness and yeasty nectarine complexity. Perfect to enjoy on Murray Mound or in the park over the summer. Chill it standing to settle the sediment, then pour with a steady hand.
2015 Vouvray Pétillant, L’Ancestrale, Vincent Carême, Loire: Most trends are born of an existing style – and it’s no different with Pét Nat. This wine, made in the méthode ancestrale, is effectively a Pét Nat – but, unlike most that carry that modish name, it’s disgorged and then put under cork, leaving a clear wine. Classically Chenin Blanc, this is layered with apple, honey and minerality.