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!

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