All About Pét Nat

All About Pét Nat

Pét Nat has gained an almost cult-like following over the last decade and has even gone so far as to have been dubbed ‘hipster wine’ – but what really is it and why should you be drinking it?

In this blog we will explore all things Pét Nat, how it compares to other sparkling wines and why you should definitely be drinking this delicious drop throughout summer!

What is pét nat?

Pét Nat is a lightly sparkling wine that is made in a natural, rustic style, with an aim to capture a sense of time and place in the bottle. Chief Winemaker Liam McElhinney said, "I really like the fact that every Pét Nat is quite different from another. There’s a real sense of individuality that comes through."

The wines can be made from any grape variety, with winemakers usually selecting fruit with bold and expressive aromatic profiles, producing deliciously juicy and full-flavoured wines.  

Pét Nat is usually produced as a natural wine with as little winemaking intervention as possible – this generally means less (or no) additions of yeast, acid, tannin, fining agents or sulphur, to name just a few modern winemaking processes! Liam said, "I was always taught that good winemaking is knowing when to intervene, and when to keep your hands off! Where possible, we always strive to minimise our handling of wines to ensure the purest possible expression of site and vintage."

The wines are also bottled unfiltered and unfined, so most bottles will still contain yeast lees. This means that Pét Nat is often cloudy or hazy in appearance, with some sediment remaining in the bottom of the bottle. Don’t worry – this is all natural and completely safe to drink!

Fun fact

Pét Nat is short for the French term pétillant naturel, which roughly translates to ‘naturally sparkling’ and it is also called col fondo in Italian!

How is pét nat made?

Fruit is harvested at optimum ripeness and then transferred to the winery where it is usually pressed to tank, barrel or even amphora (egg-shaped clay vessels).

Often winemakers will allow for some skin contact to occur before the fruit is pressed, or in some cases the wines will be allowed to ferment and age on skins – even with white varietals. The process of skin contact aims to enhance structure and flavour in the final wine, as well as to extract phenolics (tannin and colour) from the stems, skins and seeds of the grapes. Tasty goodness!

Pét Nat wines generally undergo spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts (yeasts that already exist in the air and on the surfaces of the fruit, vineyard and winery). Research has shown that the use of wild yeast can enhance the reflection of terroir in wine and means that commercial yeasts do not need to be added.

The yeast consumes natural sugars present in the fruit and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as a by-product. Et Voilà – this is how fermentation occurs and how the bubbles in Pét Nat are produced!

Pét Nat is then bottled and sealed with a crown cap before fermentation has completed to dryness, which means that low levels of sugar remain. The yeast continues to consume this sugar, allowing fermentation to continue in the bottle causing carbon dioxide to be trapped, forming a spritz or ‘pétilant’.

Is Pét Nat a new, trendy wine?

The French call the process of making Pétilant Natural ‘méthode ancestral’ and this type of sparkling wine production has been around for centuries – far longer than other sparkling wine production methods and even before Champagne production began.

Méthode ancestral was first used in the 1500s in Limoux in the south of France by monks. So, while Pét Nat may seem like a new, trendy wine, it is actually an ancient sparkling wine that has been drunk around the world for hundreds of years!

Pét Nat has had a resurgence in popularity over the last few years as the natural wine market has become more popular, with a focus on wines which truly represent vintage and vineyard site (also known as terroir).

On Pét Nat being dubbed a 'hipster wine', Liam said, "I think Pét Nat has a pretty broad appeal now. Sure, it was adopted early by a certain demographic, however we’re seeing uptake in a wider consumer base dentist loves Pét Nat he tells me!"

How is Pét Nat different to Champagne or other sparkling wines?

Champagne is made in a completely different way to Pét Nat.

For Champagne, the wine is allowed to complete fermentation to dryness before it then undergoes a secondary fermentation in bottle, after the addition of yeast and sugar (liqueur de tirage). Champagne is also very strict on the grape varieties that can be used (Pinot Noir, Champagne and Pinot Meunier), whereas Pét Nat can be made from any grape variety giving winemakers an exciting creative license to produce some very different styles of wine.

Pét Nat is often cloudy due to the yeast lees remaining in the bottle, whereas Champagne and other sparkling wines are normally clear in appearance.

Pét Nat is also less bubbly compared to other sparkling wines.

Other sparkling wine methods do exist (such as the Charmat/Tank method, used to create less expensive sparkling wines) but we will discuss these in more detail in a future blog – so keep an eye out!

How to serve Pét Nat

Pét Nat is not fussy! You can serve this wine in a Champagne flute or a normal white wine glass.

Pét Nat wines are hugely versatile and can be enjoyed with a wide range of foods depending on the style and grape variety used. Often Pét Nat wines will suit casual fare, like woodfired pizza or cheese and charcuterie boards.

Liam described one of his favourite times to pop open a bottle of Pét Nat: "If we’re having Friday drinks at work during the summer months, chilled Pét Nat is a bit of a staff favourite…often accompanied by a few bags of Smiths potato chips!" Winning!

Serving tip: If you are worried about the sediment (or don’t want to drink it!) then chill the bottle upright in an ice bucket for at least 30 minutes before slowly pouring.

Strelley Farm Estate Pét Nat

This is an exuberant, cloudy and lightly sparkling wine with aromas that leap out of the glass to delight the senses. Think bright passionfruit, rich lime peel and pea shoots alongside elegant nashi pear.

The first sip of this wine brings concentrated passionfruit pulp and a moreish hit of ginger spice and kaffir lime. Savour your mouthful and the full complexity of the wine will show with layers of pink grapefruit, lemon drop and pineapple juice mingling on the palate. The finish is light and refreshing, with tropical fruit flavours lingering long after your glass is empty.

Strelley Farm Estate Pét Nat Rosé

This hazy, lightly sparkling Pét Nat is delightfully bright pink, exuding a fun and playful vibe in the glass. The fun only continues on the nose with delicious aromas of pink grapefruit, guava and zesty tangerine peel.

The first taste of this wine is bursting with vibrant tropical flavours, evoking summertime memories of biting into a ripe pineapple with delicious sweet and sour juice running down your chin. A mouthwatering, juicy acidity is reminiscent of chewing on a tart apricot lolly from the local deli as a kid. Even more flavours and aromas come to mind and dance across the palate: the first pick of slightly unripe strawberries, the skin of a fuzzy yellow peach and a freshly baked brioche, hot from the bakery. This is a delicious wine to transport you to another time and place.

To shop all Strelley Farm wines, click here

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