Your guide to Pét-Nat
Your Guide to Pét-Nat
It might seem like Pét-Nat is a new addition to wine lists and bottle stores, but in actual fact it’s the OG, the oldest form of sparkling wine. Pét-Nat is an abbreviation for ‘Pétillant Naturel’, a French term that roughly translates to ‘naturally sparkling’. With insight from winemaker Hayden Penny of Organised Chaos, we thought we’d explore just what Pét-Nat is all about.
How is Pét-Nat different from other sparkling wines?
In short, most sparkling wines undergo two fermentations. Pét-nat has one fermentation. A quick delve into wine science 101 will explain. Fermentation occurs when yeast turns sugar into alcohol. The byproduct of this is carbon dioxide gas. When held under pressure this gas actually dissolves into the wine. Once that pressure is released, it becomes a gas again. So the moment you pop that cork, carbon dioxide is changing states, giving us the fizz we know and love.
As mentioned, most sparkling wine is made with two fermentations. The first turns grape sugars into alcohol creating a base wine. The second captures the fizz, as sugar and yeast are added to the base wine and fermented under pressure, either in bottle (like Champagne) or in tank (like Prosecco).
With Pét-Nat, there’s just one fermentation. Grape juice becoming wine is bottled before it finishes fermentation, which is completed in bottle under pressure. On paper it seems like a simpler method, but there’s definitely expertise required in getting this right, as Hayden explains.
“The trick with Pét-Nat is getting the timing right when you bottle. Too early and bottles start to explode, and too late you’re left with a flat wine with no bubbles.”
The process of making Champagne is known as the traditional method (methode traditionale) and it has evolved over hundreds of years as science and technology has allowed. The process of making Pét-Nat is known as the ancient method (methode ancetrale). It came about accidentally, when a wine growers happened to bottle before fermentation was completely finished.
What varieties can Pét-Nat be made from?
Steeped in history and grandeur, making Champagne is a precise, defined and technical process. Only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grown in the Champagne region can be used. With Prosecco, only the grape variety Glera (also known as Prosecco) grown in the Veneto can be used.
The great thing about Pét-Nat is that there are fewer rules. It can be made anywhere, and from any variety. Hayden’s variety of choice is Pinot Noir.
“I chose Pinot noir because of its low tannin level in the skins. I wanted to do a pink Pét-Nat but bubbles and tannins are not a good mix in my opinion, so Pinot was the perfect choice. It has beautiful colour to boot!! I’ve been making Pét-Nat now for 5 years, and each one of them behaves differently. This one was extra cool, as we started the ferment with 5 days of carbonic maceration, which really lifts the candy tones on the nose.”
Why does Pét-Nat have sediment?
Once the in-bottle fermentation is finished, the yeasts die. With most sparkling wines these are removed, a process known as disgorgement. With Pét-Nat these are not removed, and will gather at the bottom as a sediment. Additionally the wine has been bottled without the fining or filtration of other forms of production.
And the choice is yours. Leave the bottle alone for the sediment to settle, or drink it cloudy. Either way, there’s absolutely nothing harmful going on there.
Why and when should we drink Pét-Nat?
Hayden wraps this up for us very simply...
“Drink it because it's fun! I love to share it on the deck with friends, so thought why not bring one into the line up with Organised Chaos. During the late arvo, as you’re firing the BBQ, just chill it right down and enjoy!!”