What is Pét-Nat?

Have you heard of "Pét-Nat?"  Well, it's actually pétillant-naturel but it seems to be more affectionately known as “pét-nat."

Pét-Nat is a natural sparkling wine made using the ancestral method.  Whereas the Champagne method involves a secondary fermentation by adding sugar and yeast, the ancestral method allows the initial fermentation to finish in the bottle without any additives, imparting carbonation by trapping the carbon dioxide that is naturally produced during the fermentation process.

So what you get is a lighter, low alcohol, refreshing sparkling wine without additives.  But, because the yeast remains in the bottle, it tends to be a bit cloudy or hazy.

Pétillant-naturel got its start in France’s Loire Valley, pre-dating Champagne. Today, you'll find it everywhere. And, you are very likely to find it sealed under a crown cap instead of a cork.

Since the wine is named for the method used to produce it, as opposed to the grape type, it can be white, rosé or red, but typically you'll find sparking whites and rosés. The great news is that Pét-nat is typically lower priced (typically under $30) than entry-level Champagnes. 

Pét-nat is viewed as having crossover potential with appeal from beer and cider drinkers who haven’t explored wines, since it has similar flavors to dry ciders and some beers.

It's uncertain if this style of sparkling wine will ever become widespread, but if you find a bottle or have an opportunity, be sure to try it. It isn't a wine meant for aging, so drink it sooner rather than later. Cheers!

'Tis the Season for Sparkling Wine!

Everybody loves sparkling wine. It's festive. And this is the time of the year that a lot of sparking wine is served.

Sparkling wine consumption in the U.S. surges during the holiday season. It is estimated that more than 40% of sparkling wine purchases occur in the final 12 weeks of the year, with more than 25% coming in the last four weeks leading up to New Year's Eve.

There are many choices when it comes to sparking wines. Champagne is a sparkling wine that is produced in the relatively small region of Champagne in France. Only those sparkling wines produced in this region are allowed to be labeled as 'Champagne.'  And an entry-level bottle of Champagne is going to start in the $50 range.

The various styles of Champagne can be confusing. As a reminder, here are the styles and their percent of residual sugar (RS):

  • Extra Brut: 0-6% RS
  • Brut: 0-15% RS
  • Extra Dry: 12-20% RS
  • Dry: 17-35% RS
  • Demi Sec: 35-50% RS
  • Doux: Greater than 50% RS

If you enjoy a dry (low RS) sparkling wine look for Cava from Spain. It's produced using the same method as Champagne. Cava is produced in the Catalonia region of Spain where Barcelona is located.  Nice bottles of Cava can be purchased for around $15.

In the U.S., there are a tremendous number of makers of sparkling wine. Most will produce a wine that can taste very much like the French Champagne. And, you can also find these sparkling wines infused with fruit flavors such as peach and nut flavors such as almond.  An entry-level bottle of sparking wine in the U.S. can start around $10.

If you prefer sparkling wine with a more fruity and floral character, look for Prosecco from Italy. It's their signature sparkling wine. Produced in the Veneto region just north of Venice, this sparkling wine usually produces big bubbles in your glass. Bottles of Prosecco can be purchased in the $10- $15 range.

Asti is another popular sparking wine from Italy. It is produced in the Piedmont (peh-ah-MON-tey) region from the Moscato Bianco grape. Both Moncato d'Asti and Asti sparkling wines can be found in the $10-$15 range

And, if you happen to have heard about pétillant-naturel—more affectionately known as “pét-nat”— you know that this is another sparking wine option. One that I'll address in more detail next time. 

So here's to raising a glass of bubbly during the holiday season. Cheers!