I’ll take a gamble here and say the closer you live to inner north of Melbourne (or capital city hipster equivalents) the more you would have seen the term ‘Pet Nat’ on a wine list. What I mean to say is, Pet Nat isn’t quite mainstream yet but it’s coming, so I’ve prepared this handy guide so that if you live elsewhere, you’re prepared for the inevitable sprawl.
Pet Nat is a category of sparkling that references it’s process. It can made from any grape variety, any region and in any style. It has its roots in the Loire Valley in France, where without the tendency to shorten words, is known as Petillant Naturel. Some brands also use the term Ancestrale – which is roughly the same thing.
Think of Pet Nat as rustic sparkling. Essentially it has a bit less fizz than the Champagne or Prosecco (and local equivalents), and is also a bit cloudy because the yeast that carry out the bottle ferment are left in the bottle (most of the time anyway). Similar to bottle fermented beer. So yes, unlike most sparkling, there is yeast in your fizz. Giddy up.
Pet Nat is generally made by bottling the wine while it’s still fermenting. This puts a bit of sugar and yeast in every bottle, where it continues to ferment..but, because the bottles are sealed, this forces the CO2 to dissolve in the wine, which makes the bubbles. This captures the very essence of the wine while before it’s been ‘cleaned up’ – which means that sometimes the flavours are ummm, a little left of what you might expect from more commercial sparkling….
Sounds weird, Is it any good?
Yes, absolutely. Despite tendencies for old cranky wine people to be annoyed by its popularity, Pet Nat is here to stay…having said that, here are notes on what to expect.
Grape Variety: Pet Nat can be made by literally any variety. The best ones I’ve tried are made from Italian varieties like Prosecco (from Das Juice), Aglianico & Barbera (from La Prova Wines) and some left-of-centre blends like the boys from Kon Pira Maru do. But, pretty much any grape you can think of, someone has made it into pet nat.
Colour: They range from light gold right through to dark rose, and with the yeast floating around (and typically no filtering) they are cloudy too.
Flavour and Texture: Here’s where it get interesting. Firstly, they are less fizzy and can be a little creamy from the yeast influence. Flavour wise, I tend to expect some cider-ey flavours, some yeasty flavours and some flavour from the grapes. They are much ‘wilder’ than commerical sparkling and vary hugely. The weirder flavours tend to be around the sour spectrum, and the fruit flavours tend to be characteristic of earlier picked fruit – things like marmalade/blood orange, cranberry, pithy citrus, herbs, cucumber raspberry etc. And then often there are some fun confectionary or soft drink type flavours too. Delish!
FYI, The shit ones taste like rubber or onion – so if you happen on one of these, you got a dud #sadface. Try something else next time!
Level of Fizz: It’s lower than Prosecco or traditional sparkling wines, but more than Moscato, or the Frizzante styles…and it does tend to not last that long on the glass.
Price: $25 – $40 seems to be the sweet spot…they are generally cheaper than the traditional French style wines.
Availability: The winemaking process is a little tricky so it’s difficult to make Pet Nat on a big scale – so the availability side of things is probably more limited than other sparkling wines. If you find one you like, buy it while you can, in other words. And don’t store them – drink while fresh!
Are they natural wines? That’s a big ol’ can of worms but they typically are low or no sulphur & typically they don’t have any additives; they also tend to be lower in alcohol. Tick! This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean the grapes weren’t farmed on a commercial vineyard using a ton of chemicals – so if you’re concerned about this, look for wines promoting organic or biodynamic vineyard practices. This is a great example made by Ngeringa using biodynamic grapes. Yum.
Found one you like? Send me a note 🙂