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.