Pét-Nat (aka Pétillant Naturel) is the hipster sparkling wine that's all the rage. It’s the casual cousin of Champagne. Where Champagne is the star at your formal celebrations, Pét-Nat is welcome at your everyday summer barbecue.
What’s the Difference Between Pét-Nat and Champagne?
These sparklers are made using different fermentation methods. Champagne follows the Methode Traditionelle which involves two fermentation cycles. The first fermentation cycle happens in stainless steel tanks and results in a still wine. The second fermentation cycle happens in the bottle when sugar and yeast are added which creates the carbon dioxide. That carbonation is released, once the bottle is opened creating the familiar bubbles.
Pét-Nat is produced using the Methode Ancestrale. Yes, this method is actually the original method for making sparkling wine. What’s old is new again. The process involves only one fermentation cycle. The fermentation starts in stainless steel tanks but is stopped before completion. The wine is then bottled and finishes fermenting, trapping the carbon dioxide. This approach takes a lot of skill because the results can be a bit unpredictable. Nothing like living on the edge and praying your sparkling behaves the way you want it to.
Pét-Nat often has subtle bubbles that have a nice effervescence, but not the full-on bubble beads like you get with Champagne. These sparklers are often cloudy because the dead yeast cells from bottle fermentation are not removed like is done for Champagne.
To top it all off, literally, they use caps not corks. This makes it so much easier to open and adds to the casual, hipster vibe.
What Grapes Are Used and How Does Pét-Nat Taste?
While the production method for Pét-Nat is specific, the grapes and style are not. Any wine grapes from around the world are used to produce White, Red, Rosé, or even an Orange sparkler. This gives the winemakers a blank canvas to create their Pét-Nat vision as they wish.
That said, these hip sparklers typically have high acidity, low alcohol, and a bit of sweetness to them.