What is Pet Nat? | Funky New Trend or the Oldest Fizz Around

Harry Lambourne
16th June 2023

Pet Nat is on the rise. It’s made the jump from trendy natural wine, to being including on Michelin star tasting menus. However, you may be wondering what is Pet Nat?

It is sparkling wine, made the ‘ancestral’ way. The oldest form of sparkling wine in the world, often utilising wild yeasts. Let’s look into how this wine is made, the history behind it and the sorts of tastes and flavours you can expect when cracking open a Pet Nat.

How Do You Make Pet Nat?

Pet Nat is short for ‘Pétillant Naturel’. This means ‘naturally bubbling’. This speaks to the method of production. This is distinct to both the traditional method which is used in the production of Champagne, Crémant and Cava, or the tank method which is used in the Prosecco and Asti.

Pet Nat
Popping A Pet Nat

Pet Nat is a hands-off method of production. The base wine is added to the bottle while it is still fermenting. It is then closed off with a crown cap. At this point, the fermentation finishes in the bottle and the trapped CO2 gives the wine it’s effervescence. This also has the effect of creating less pressure. Wines are lighter, with less perlage. Perlage is the fizz which occurs when uncorking, (or in the case of pet nat un-cracking), a bottle of sparkling wine.

As the fermentation process is shorter, you’ll also get a lower level of alcohol. This is part of the appeal for the natural wine market as many people are looking for lower alcohol content in their wine.

They also tend to be lower in sugar than other styles of sparkling wine. This is both due to the method of production and the fact that winemakers don’t add any additional sugars or preservatives.

Another key point of production is the lack of filtration. Pet Nat wines will therefore appear far more cloudy when compared to their mass-produced counterparts, often giving them a ‘quick and dirty‘ look. They’re meant to be enjoyed early, in a laid back setting with some nice food. They’re not the refined and austere sparkling wines that you can keep in a dusty cellar for years.

In short, Pet Nat are a hands-off method of production. They get the base wine, stick it in the bottle and let nature do the work. This is why this method of production lends itself to both organic and biodynamic viticulture.

The History of Pet Nat

So, we’ve touched upon Pet Nat being the oldest method of sparkling wine production. The name ‘ancestral method’ speaks to the fact that this is how our ancestors would’ve produced sparkling wine. Before, we worked out more nuanced versions of sparkling wine, we were just cranking out Pet Nat!

Early examples of this style of wine date back to 500 years ago, where regions such as the Limoux in Languedoc-Roussillon, began to create wines in this style.

Languedoc-Roussillon Wine Region
Languedoc-Roussillon – The Home of Pet Nat?

Indeed, even to this date Limoux is a great source of high-quality Pet Nat. However, many other regions in France, have built up a reputation for this funky fizz. Generally, they’ll use the grapes which are famous within that region. So, look for Loire Valley examples which utilise Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. You may also see Alsace using Riesling or Pinot Blanc. Maybe Crémant de Loire and Crémant d’Alsace have some competition?

All this could lead you to think that the name means that this is a method of production specific to France. However, as traditional method wines have gone beyond Champagne, so has the ancestral method.

For example, you’ll often see them in Italy using the term ‘Col Fondo‘. While these differ slightly in production to Pet Nat, both in fermentation processes and lees ageing, they’re definitely the Italian cousin to the classic French style.

Then, across Europe you’ll find a whole heap of different styles. Blaufränkisch in Austria, or Riesling in Germany. Everyone is jumping on the trend and riding the wave of ever growing demand for this popular style of wine. The chances are if you have a favourite grape variety and region, then you’ll find the wine to match it!

What Does Pet Nat Taste Like?

If this has got you itching to try some of the funkiest fizz on the market, well let’s give you a look into what it tastes like!

The sheer variety in flavours of Pet Nat are part of the appeal. As with wild yeast wines, the wines are left to their own devices to a degree which means that you can never be quite certain what characteristics the wines will exhibit. Everything from crisp citrus notes, to sweet and buttery candied flavours are available.

However, there are often a few characteristics which almost all Pet Nat wines will exhibit. You’ll generally see these funky ‘barnyard’ characteristics, which possess slightly sour smells at a first whiff. It is not disimilar to products like kombucha.

So, if you’re looking for your first Pet Nat to try, go for a region and grape variety you’re familiar with. You’ll certainly experience some familiar flavour profiles, as well as some different and exciting tasting notes. Just don’t be put off if you notice an initial sour ‘tang’. It’s perfectly natural!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the oldest method of sparkling wine, that’s now experienced a renaissance in the natural wine craze. There’s a ton of great examples available, so be sure to get out to your local natural wine bars and bottle shops and get trying some!

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