What is Pét Nat?

Pétillant Naturel is French for “natural bubbles”. And nothing could be more natural than organic Pét Nat.

We crush fully ripe Tamyanika grapes, adding nothing. We soak the crushed grapes in their own juice (this is called “maceration”) for 6-7 days during which time the fermentation starts. Then we drain the fermenting juice into a stainless-steel tank and let it continue fermentation. This maceration allows what would normally be white wine to become orange wine.

Fermentation is a process in which yeast eats grape sugar and produces heat, alcohol and carbon dioxide gas (bubbles). Normally, when all the sugar has been turned into alcohol (wine), winemaker allows all the carbon dioxide to evaporate before bottling and what you get is a normal, still wine you drink every day.

For Pét Nat, winemaker closely follows fermentation and when about 20 grams of sugar is still left, fermenting juice is racked into bottles specially made to withstand high pressure. Fermentation continues in the bottle, but now carbon dioxide has nowhere to escape and bubbles are trapped in the wine.

Let’s go back to the stainless-steel tank, before bottling. During fermentation in the tank, those bubbles constantly mix the sediment and yeast throughout the fermenting juice. But this is far from uniform, so when fermenting juice is bottled uneven amounts of sediment and yeast get into bottles. As a result, each bottle of Pét Nat is slightly different. Original, unique, unrepeatable.

This method of making sparkling wine the French call méthode ancienne (méthode ancestral) or ancient method (method of our ancestors). It was used before the Champagne method was invented. Large producers wanted for every bottle to be exactly the same and preferably as similar as possible from year to year.

Sparkling wines other than Pét Nat (champagne, cava, prosecco…) are all made to be as consistent as possible. So, they blend still wines from several allowed varieties (very few are allowed) and add exactly the same amount of sugar liqueur and yeast to the bottle.

Both Pét Nat and Champagne produce sediment during fermentation in the bottle. Both can be disgorged (meaning sediment removed), but with Pét Nat it is optional. When it is done, small amount of sediment is left on purpose, making Pét Nat somewhat cloudy.

To further differentiate themselves, Pét Nat producers use simple crown cap (like on soda or beer) rather than cork with a wire cage that is obligatory on other sparkling wines.

Pét Nat is made from any grape variety, red and white and blend of both. It is usually a bit sweet. If all of the sediment is left in the bottle it erupts violently at opening (lots of fun, not so much wine left). Don’t worry, Good boy Bruno is tame.