With the New Year nigh, it’s the perfect time to talk about the sparkling wine of the the natural wine world: Pét Nat, short for Petillant Naturel (pronounced PET-ee-on Natch-oo-rel…I had to Google that). If you missed my sparkling wine crash courses, you can find them here and here. I wrote those before I became a natural wine devotee, so Pét Nat wasn’t even on my radar at the time.
What makes Pét Nat different from other sparkling wines is that it is produced by the méthode ancestral. This means that it differs from other sparkling wines in a few ways:
it does not undergo a secondary fermentation
it’s bottled before the first and only fermentation completes
it isn’t disgorged and often not filtered
That’s enough about what it isn’t. This is what it is: perfectly cloudy, slightly off-dry, low in alcohol, and full of flavor and texture.
To make Pét Nat, the wine is fermented in an airtight container, sometimes in the bottle. Once the wine reaches a certain level of dryness, it is chilled to a temperature that halts fermentation. Then the wine is bottled if not already in there. Because fermentation isn’t allowed to finish, the wine has some residual sugar and it’s low(ish) in alcohol. So, chug away! Since it doesn’t undergo a second fermentation, there isn’t any need for it to be disgorged and many winemakers choose not to filter their Pét Nat. It sounds like it would be a set it and forget it kind of wine, but it takes a lot of skill to produce a great Pét Nat because the process is so variable and not as controlled or as easily corrected as other methods. Pét Nat can be made anywhere and with any grape. I’ve had some really delicious versions from California and France alike.
For this post, I’ve selected Domaine Sextant Ecume Vin Petillant Brut 2017, made by Julien Altaber. It’s made with a blend of Aligote and Gamay (hence, the pink hue) grown in the Burgundian subregion of Saint Aubin. It’s plain to see that this wine is not filtered; you might even think it was a Prosecco-heavy bellini at first glance. I actually purchased two bottles of this and the first one that I opened a couple of weeks ago was cloudier in appearance, so there is bottle variation. Which I love because it proves how little intervention there is in the cellar. I couldn’t find any specifics on the winery’s site about whether or not the wine is fermented in the bottle, but I have a hunch that it is.
See the difference? Bottle variation is real!
Julien makes his wines with grapes that are grown completely organically, he abides by a minimal intervention philosophy in the cellar, and he does not add sulfites. It’s about as natural as you can get. This wine is pretty dazzling; it tastes like grapefruit, pear, peach, and fresh strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar with a quirky twist of barnyard. It has a fuller, creamier texture than your typical sparkling wine and although I would classify it as a dry wine, I do taste a small amount of residual sugar, which certainly doesn’t stifle a primal urge to down an entire bottle of this delicious Pét Nat. It’s nothing short of fantastic.
If you’re still in search of some New Year’s Eve Bubbles, ignore those big Champagne houses and start the year out right with a Pét Nat. And welcome to the world of sparkling natural wines.
Have a wonderful New Year celebration, my dear readers, and I’ll see you here in 2019. I leave you and 2018 with this thought: it’s almost the roaring 20s again.