So, you went to the wine store and the person working at the store is obsessing over the latest pét-nat they brought in. You’re down with pét-nat, you think it’s delicious, fun, and maybe even got you into natural wine in the first place. But, you realize you don’t actually know what this pét-nat wine is and how it’s made. Instead of speaking further to the wine store person (because human interaction is hard) you pull out your phone and vigorously google “what is pet-nat?" Ta-da! Here we are now!
Pétillant naturel is a (typically natural) sparkling wine, but not in the way you’d normally expect. Let’s first look at how regular sparkling wine is made and compare it to pét-nat.
Other Sparkling Wine - goes through two fermentations: one where the wine fully ferments, then another where the CO2 is trapped in the bottle and turns to bubbles. Note: There are many ways this happens that varies for champagne style to prosecco style, but we’ll leave that for another blog.
Pét-nat - starts the same way but instead of doing a secondary fermentation to make the wine bubbly, they stop the wine mid-first fermentation and typically cap it at this point. This traps in the CO2 in the bottle and since it can’t escape, bubbles are created in the bottle.
Basically, the main difference is that the the wine only has one fermentation instead of two. This can also be why it is lower in alcohol content. Knowing that the other sparkling wines have a dossage and second fermentation, you can understand why they're labeling this version the more natural way of making the wine. As less manipulation took place to make it sparkling.
You’ll also see pét-nat listed as:
Ancestral Method: An inexpensive but risky and difficult-to-control method of producing sparkling wine. It is almost certainly the oldest as well. In this format, the primary fermentation is stopped before completing, and a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, ending when the yeast cells deplete the supply of residual sugar. There is no dosage, or sugar addition, to kick-start the secondary fermentation, and the wine is not disgorged to remove any sediment or lees remaining afterward. This means it will likely have sediment and other things flying around the bottle.
Col Fondo: Sparkling wine production method for traditional Prosecco, in which the spent yeast cells, or lees, leftover from the secondary fermentation are not disgorged.
Pét-nat is a sparkling wine that doesn’t go through secondary fermentation. Instead, they have a primary fermentation that creates alcohol then they stop the wine mid-first fermentation and cap it. This traps in the CO2 in the bottle and since it can’t escape, bubbles are created in the bottle.
Congrats, you’re now a pét-nat expert in 90 seconds!
Holly Berrigan is the Founder of MYSA Natural Wine. She has a WSET Level 3 certification with Distinction, is a member and writer for the Porto Protocol and Slow Food USA, and is a student in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge.
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