Pét-nat, the naked sparkling wine is bubbling up. On both the left and right coasts, a new sparkle has hit town: pétillant naturel (or pét-nat), the gentle bubbly, is popping its caps.
This “new” trend in wine is actually on the cutting edge of ancient technology known as méthode ancestrale. The result is an unfiltered, full-flavored wine with a refined bubble – halfway between a still and a sparkling wine. You can see the possibilities.
Essentially, the making of the bubbly is less controlled by the winemaker than when creating Champagne and therefore more risky. But let’s back up and talk about the whole carbonation (bubbles) thing in wine. It was originally a fabulous accident. In Champagne and similar regions with frigid winters, the fermentation would naturally halt due to the cold weather Then, once the sun warmed the lands again, the fermentation automatically started up again – while the wine was resting in the bottle. And, so this “accidental” secondary fermentation resulted in the original bubbles in the bottle.
Today pét-nats are made by purposely stopping the fermentation, regardless of the weather, bottling the unfinished wine and then waiting to see what unpredictable results occur upon the second fermentation.
The wine becomes low-alcohol, fizzy and frothy and slightly cloudy. And, unlike Champagne, pét-nat is not relegated by law to a specific region. So, this good news means that it can be made anywhere!
In Italy,Pét-nat goes by the name “col fondo”.
This contrasts with the traditional Champagne method or Methode Traditionelle (formerly known as Methode Champenoise – a term the EU has banned). Another deviation is that Champagne is often made from several vintages of grape. Setting aside other rules as well, pét-nat comes with a cola cap rather than a cork.Pét-nat is a single vintage within a few months of harvest – the wine actually tastes like grapes.
Because there’s little manipulation, making this unpredictable wine is not without its risks. But therein lies the reward when cared for by the hands of a skilled winemaker.
Here’s a tip: The bubbles in sparkling wine can be a distraction taking away from the aromas and the taste. If you’re going to assess a typical sparkler like Champagne it’s best to let it rest after it’s poured into the glass. Let the bubbles get their initial exuberance out of the way and then begin to smell and taste to discover the aromas and flavors.
With pét-nat no need to wait. The softness of the bubbles and lower pressure in the bottle allow the aromas to be immediately present.
Second tip: This is a great crossover beverage from the craft beer and cider world to wine.
These are worthy reasons to drink this naked sparkler made by global winemakers. Incidentally, pét-nat comes in white, rosé and red.
Here are a few bottles to check out:
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Photo Credit: Courtesy, Vinepair.com; Broadsheet.com; Vinepair; Cai de Zago