The wine industry is really good at creating a buzz about new and interesting products and trends. Consumers are constantly being bombarded with the latest and greatest to try. One of the most popular segments in the industry right now is the natural wine movement. This is due to the popularity of consumers wanting to try cleaner wines with less intervention in the vineyard and the winemaking process. This is done through many ways, including hand harvesting, organic and biodynamic farming practices, and no introduction of sulfites in grape management of wine production. One of the styles that has broken off from natural wines is the growing trend for Pet Nat. It has picked up steam and is turning consumers on to this “new” trend, which is actually quite ancient. Let’s dig into it.
Pet Nat is short for pétillant naturel, which translates to naturally sparkling. Pet Nat is produced using the “Ancestral Method.” This is the oldest way of producing sparkling wine, and was developed in the 16th century. This is done through a single, continuous fermentation. It is bottled before initial fermentation is finished converting sugar into alcohol, while the yeast is still working its magic. Once in bottle, the yeast remains very active and continues to convert sugar into alcohol. Carbon dioxide (C02), a byproduct of fermentation, is trapped inside the bottle and incorporated into the wine instead of escaping. The result is fresh, naturally sparkling wine.
Consuming these wines in their youth instead of aged can result in a much different experience. When the wines are initially bottled, there is residual sugar still in the solution that has not been converted yet. Young Pet Nat can have a little bit more richness in the taste profile and feel of the wine due to having not quite converted all of the sugar. Pet Nat that has been aged a little will have converted all of the sugar, resulting in a dry style with lovely, natural fizz. A majority of producers use minimal to no filtration before bottling to avoid stripping any lively yeasts out, and most producers also do not disgorge at the end of fermentation to keep all of that lovely fizz intact. Don’t get wrapped up wondering if it’s young or not. Just drink it.
Pet Nat is popular among consumers who are conscious of how it is produced, but it also has another attractive trait: it’s delicious! The wines are typically youthful, bright, lively and very easy to consume. Lower alcohol content that hovers around 12.5% is common. This makes the wines very approachable to consume by themselves or pair with food. They are much like crisp white wines in the way they can be paired. Fresh fish and seafood are natural partners. Don’t be afraid, though, to throw whatever sounds good against it. Roasted chicken or fried items are terrific pairings because of their bright and lively acidity, which help lift anything you want to throw at your palette. Foods with a little bit of spiciness and heat also work quite well. A bite of spicy or strong-flavored food, followed by a swig of juicy, dry and fizzy wine, is sure refresh to your palette and prepare you for your next bite of food.
Pet Nat comes in both red and white varietals. With the white varieties, the flavors are often pushed into the melon, stone fruit and citrus realm, with notes of white flowers and doses of yeasty, bread-like flavors and smells. The red varieties push them more berry forward. Raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and tart cranberry notes are quite common. Whichever path you decide to take, it will reward you in different ways. The one thing that will remain the same, though, is that they are refreshing, delicious and might easily become one of your favorite adult beverages to consume. Cheers!
Raymond Dickinson is the owner of Brix Bottleshop, a certified sommelier and a wine educator with decades of experience in the food and beverage industry. Brix Bottleshop, located at 115 S. Main St. in downtown Kalispell, can be found online at www.brixbottleshop.com.
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