Sunday, June 16, 2024

The New Darling of Wine: Pet-nat

                          Joseph Jewell's pet-nat Vermentino is perfect for a summer aperitif

There’s a new kid on the wine block called “pet-nat.”  Making its mark on wine lists everywhere, this effervescent kid isn’t actually new, but has deep historical roots in European wine-making.   Pre-dating even Champagne, pet-nat is thought to be the oldest method of making a sparkling wine.

Pet-nat is an abbreviated form for “petillant naturel,” a French style of sparkling wine.   Unlike Champagne which has undergone a second fermentation in the bottle to create its bubbles, pet-nat is bottled just before the first fermentation is complete.  This first fermentation actually continues in the pet-nat bottle, capturing the resulting bubbles of carbon dioxide and, therefore, making a sparkling wine.  Pet-nat’s fizz is more gentle than traditional Champagne, and its alcohol levels are more modest than other sparkling wines made via a second fermentation in the bottle which makes it perfect for warm weather.

Most Pet-nats are capped with a simple metal topper


Pet-nat can be made from any grape variety.  Aromatic varieties such as Riesling and Muscat do well, as do varieties that have good acidity.  Pet-nat, however, is not relegated only to white grapes.  Juicy Gamay also works well as fruitiness, freshness and early drinkability of Gamay translates well into pet-nat which is made to be enjoyed young when fruitiness and freshness are at their height.

Currently, there is no official definition or any wine laws about how to make pet-nat, with the exception of a few appellations in France.   Pet-nat is becoming increasing available and its growth seems to parallel the resurgence of the natural wine movement.  Both platforms share a similar philosophy of organic /biodynamic farming, avoiding Sulphur, using natural yeast, and little fining or filtration.

Why not host a pet-nat tasting?

One of my favorite pet-nats is made by Joseph Jewell Winery in Sonoma  (  Made from the Italian Vermentino grape (popular on Italy’s Tuscan & Ligurian Coast), this one, like its name, is a jewel.  You can order cases from the winery direct ($44 per bottle).   Another winner is Birichino’s Malvasia Bianca ($28) from Monterey county (   Malvasia’s stone fruit profile of peach & apricot is laced with pineapple and mandarins.  Yum.   But, no need to limit yourself to the US as pet-nats are made in Australia, Austria, France, South Africa and Spain!

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Cherries & Olives !

                                 Olives & cherries are definitely a Michelin-star combination

I have my dear friend, Linda Birnie, to thank for gifting me an exquisite jar of OLIVES & CHERRIES.  The recipe was developed by Michelin-star Spanish chef José Andrés (many of you may know him for his Herculean humanitarian efforts in founding the World Central Kitchen, a non-profit devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters).  I fell in instant amor with the unusual pairing and immediately made several jars.

I was surprised to learn after a little research that olives and cherries are actually related.  They belong to a botanical group called "drupes."   In this same family are also apricots, mangoes and peaches, as well as almonds, pecans and pistachios.

                                          This tapa came together in only a few minutes

Last night I served the olive & cherry recipe at a Spanish dinner party in our home with goat cheese and a sliced baguette.  It was a big hit.  A couple of weeks ago I used it as a side dish with BBQ chicken & roasted potatoes---magnifico! 

Here's the recipe.   Gracias Linda and a big o to chef José Andrés! 

Cherries & Olives

3 cup pitted cherries 
2 cup pitted olives (e.g. arbequina, manzanilla, or kalamata)
1/2 of an orange peel 

1/2 of a lemon peel
2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf (fresh preferred)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or more!)
1/2 cup aged sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Wash the cherries, remove stems & pits.   With a vegetable peeler, remove half of the outer peel from the orange & lemon. Smash the garlic and remove outer skin. Combine all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.   Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.  (If refrigerated, allow the mix to come to room temperature before serving for the best flavors.)