There’s a new sparkling wine trend on the rise, and pet nat is quickly becoming one of the most popular styles. What is a pet-nat, you ask? It’s an ancestral bubbly that is made using the natural fermentation process. This gives pet nat wines a unique flavor and character that sets them apart from other sparkling wines. And guess what? It is nothing new. The existence of what is called « méthodes ancestrales » has a long history that dates back centuries.
Remember when your mother’s 1970’s bell bottom jeans became trendy again? Well, that is French Pet-Nat!
What is Méthode Ancestrale?
It is generally accepted that the sparkling wine production process was developed in southwestern France and first produced Blanquette de Limoux, the world’s first sparkling wine, in 1531. While the monks who completed it were almost certainly influenced by the seasons, today’s winemakers must employ considerably greater skill and expertise to reproduce the technique.
Winemaking Process of Méthode Ancestrale
Wine is transferred from a vat into individual bottles while it is still fermenting and then sealed under a crown cap in the méthode ancestrale. When carbon dioxide gas, a byproduct of alcoholic fermentation, gets trapped in the wine, bubbles are formed. Because the wine is not filtered and no sugar is added, pét-nat sparkling wine is considered more “natural” by some than other sparkling wines.
Wines produced using the méthode ancestrale method generally have a lower alcohol content, around 9-11 percent. The ABV is low because ancestral wine does not go through a secondary fermentation, which increases the alcohol amount. Unfermented residual sugar lingers in the wine after fermentation has completed, is sometimes present in these wines, resulting in an untamed wine with a focus on fresh fruit tastes.
Pet-Nat and Méthodes Ancestrales in France
Fun Fact! There are several AOC in France today that produce only méthodes ancestrales. I’ve listed them below. It is important to note that these wines do not bear the mention Pét’Nat’ or Pétillant naturel because they are officially designated AOCs hence by most of the time Pet-Nat wines from France are designated as “Vin de France”.
- Clairette de Die has a Méthode Dioise Ancestrale AOP made with 100% Clairette grapes.
- Blanquette de Limoux AOP in Languedoc can also be Méthode Ancestrale with 100% Mauzac grapes
- The Gaillac region also has a Méthode ancestrale and even has its own name for it! It is called Méthode gaillacoise and is made with 100% Mauzac. Note that the Mauzac grape varietal is one of the most ancient in the region dating back to the Romans! Gaillac was the first region where it was planted, near Moissac – hence the name of Mauzac.
- Cerdon du Bugey is a pétillant rosé also made with méthode ancestrale and with a blend of poulsard and gamay. Which to no surprise is regaining popularity with the rise in demand.
Producers all over the world are starting to produce pet-nat wines, and it looks like this trend is here to stay.
In Paris, a new local DJ is all the rage. “DJ Pet-Nat” performs in wine bars and caves through the city for crowds of 20-30 something wine drinkers enjoying tacos and pizzas on sunny afternoons.
In Greece, the Mylonas brothers, winemakers in the region of Attica described how they adapted, “Our USA importer called and asked, can you make a Pet-Nat? The demand in New York is so high we can’t keep up”. The brothers seized the opportunity and started to produce a Pet-Nat made from the Savatiano grape. Their stock sold out within days.
The Mylonas Brother’s story is not uncommon because now more ever before wine consumers globally are asking for wines made with more sustainable winemaking and viticulture practices. Wines referred to as « Natural ». The term “natural” and corresponding certifications are complex. I invite you to read my previous article on the subject here.
There is no denying that Pet-Nat is a fun and refreshing alternative to traditional sparkling wines no matter if it is “just trend” or not. They are best enjoyed young and fresh, making them the perfect summertime wine.
If you’re looking to try something new this summer, be sure to pick up a bottle (or two) of Pet’Nat by ASSEYRAS, Etienne Blanc 2021.
Fourth generation winemaker, Etienne Blanc uses young Roussanne grapes grown in the Southern Rhone Valley just outside the beautiful village of Tulette. The grapes are harvested by hand when under ripe to preserve their freshness and higher acidity. After years of conversion work and dedication, his vines will be certified organic next year.
The Pet-Nat nose is floral mixed with citrus fruits and peach. Blood orange and grapefruit being the dominant which extend into the palate adding another layer of subtle acidity and bitterness. This wine pairs well with sweet and nutty flavors. Summer goat cheese salads with walnuts or strawberry almond cheesecake.
Aging: 1 to 2 years. Serving: 8 to 10°C.
Pet-Nat is on everyone’s radar. Interested in picking this wine up for your portfolio? Contact me.