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Why You Need to Try Pét-Nat

Everyone knows about champagne, cava, and prosecco. The most popular of sparkling wines all get their fizziness from a production process of called the “traditional method” of two-stage fermentation, where yeast and sugar are added to the bottles of cuvee.

But, this method of intentionally adding fizz to one is not the oldest. That distinction falls on the “ancestral method”, producing wines that are sometimes called pétillant-naturel, or more commonly, pét-nat.

Pét-nat differs from the traditional method if a few ways. First of all, the first fermentation stage of the wine is not complete when it is added to the bottle. This allows the yeast to continue its magic in the bottle, producing the carbon dioxide that would normally escape to the atmosphere during primary fermentation. In this manner, there is no malolactic fermentation that takes place, which happens in the secondary fermentation of the traditional sparkling wines.

Because so much of the production of pét-nat wine relies on a production process that is difficult to control, they are made in small volumes. It takes a gifted winemaker to produce premium pét-nat wines on a regular basis. Where a champagne is an already finished wine in the bottle, before the yeast and sugar kick-off the secondary fermentation, the winemaker must really understand what will happen to their pét-nat wine as it finishes developing in the bottle.

Pét-nat wines are generally more aromatic, with a lower alcohol content. Unlike champagne, pét-nat does not develop in a cellar over time, and instead are best 1-3 years after bottling. These wines are mainly seen being used as dessert wines, paired with fruit, or as an aperitif.

The first time you try a pét-nat, your reaction may be “weird”. The process of produces a softer effervescence, and the lack of malolactic fermentation can provide a more tart, or funky, aspect to the wine.

But, those softer bubbles make pét-nat wines make them easily drinkable, ideal for social gatherings, instead of the grand toast. The lack of “headiness” in a pét-nat simply invites one to multiple glasses.

Pét-nat wines have been growing in popularity the last few years, driven both by its enjoyability, as well as it being seen as “rustic” and “artisanal”. Come by the tasting room to try Ruby’s 2014 Gewurztraminer interpretation of this centuries old style, or contact us to purchase, we tend to only have a limited supply.

What’s so great about Oregon’s terroir?

Much like real estate, a big factor of winemaking is “location, location, location”.

While there are many things that make a wine what it is, including sunlight, humidity, and irrigation, the earth it grows in is especially important. The wine making term for this is “terroir”, which is French for “land”. But, terroir is about more than the ground.

Oregon TerroirTerroir, in winemaking, is a small term that means a lot. Climate, soil type, topography, and indigenous plant life all combine to make a region’s terroir. To make this even more complex, one region can be separated into microclimates, meaning that the grapes grown on a valley floor have a different terroir than those grown on mountain slopes of the same valley. It is said that master sommeliers can differentiate a wine grown on the two sides of the same river.

All these little differences make for big differences in wine. The terroir of one valley may provide the sun and humidity needed for world class sauvignon cabernet, while a neighboring valley may face in such a direction to be better for pinot noir.

Depending on the philosophy of the winemaker, human factors can either negate regional terroir, or fully embrace it. Fermentation temperature, artificial irrigation, fining agents, and use of oak are all examples of human intervention in terroir.

What’s so special about Oregon’s terroir?

Oregon, at one point, was underwater. The very ground we use to grow our pinot noir grapes was once the ocean floor of the Pacific Ocean. Millions of years of volcanic activity would eventually bring Oregon out of the sea, adding a new layer of geological influence. Finally, the most recent Ice Age saw the massive glaciers pushing dirt everywhere, and carving new valleys everywhere they went.

At Ruby Vineyard & Winery, we grow our pinot noir vines in Oregon’s Laurelwood soil. Laurelwood is a “loess” soil type which consists of deep, well drained soil that is a silty loam. The Laurelwood soil of the Willamette Valley is responsible for the bright red fruit produced on the vine, as well as contributing tasting notes of earth and white pepper.

It is said that the soil types and climate of the Willamette Valley are similar to those found in Burgundy. But, with the average winery in the valley produces less than 1,000 cases a year, there is little consistency in the same style from year-to-year. This allows our winemakers to embrace the uniqueness of the year, and leverage the terroir of the region to create very special and distinct wines.

Come visit our tasting room to get a sense of the winery, and learn more about our techniques in using the unique Oregon terroir in making our premium wines.

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