Discovering natural bubbles: pétillant naturel / Pet’Nats

It was last Friday when we had the pleasure of having two very good friends visiting. And besides burgers from the excellent Gather Journal and yoghurt ice-cream with salted caramel sauce there had to be some interesting booze on the table. Slowly but surely all our friends and acquaintances have to get familiar with the concept and the taste of natural wine! 

Pet-Nat: You Are So Happy

So besides a red from Olivier Cousin (always a safe bet) and a white from Alice and Olivier de Moor I bought a bottle from Nathalie Gaubicher and Christian Chaussard called “you Are so happy”. It was not the first natural white with a crown cap I met and I have tasted quite a few which were unusually fizzy but this one was really sparkling. Which I probably specifically noticed as I hadn’t expected so many bubbles. So we were a little irritated but tasted with great interested and discovered funky notes of pears and it had a herbaceous touch too. Isn’t it funny how things look if you get a little more knowledge under the hood?

Now I almost feel embarrassed not having noticed that there is essentially a natural version of sparkling wines called “pétillant naturel” (it was even on the label!) or “Pet-Nats” (or “Pet’Nats”). So how does it work? Basically the wine is fermented as usual but fermentation is stopped before completed so there is some left-over sugar in the wine. If there is filtration taking place it’s only a “light” one so the majority of the yeast stays in the juice. Which is then bottled and thoroughly closed as the fermentation kicks in again to turn the rest of the sugar into alcohol and keep the carbon dioxide in the bottle for the fizz. Not surprisingly this is fairly risky with regards to taste and explosiveness but that’s also what’s attractive about the natural approach (you do know that for conventional sparkling wine / champagne sugar and yeast are added to initiate the second fermentation right?).

Ladybird in the vines

And how did I learn about it? The Monday after our evening I was working in the vineyard, as alway listening to music and podcasts. One of the podcasts I was listening to this morning was Jameson Fink‘s “Wine Without Worry” who was just in the this episode talking to Sarah Chappell about Pet-Nats. I was amazed listening – what a fun coincidence! Now I do want to get another bottle to taste it again with a little more knowledge and orientation – thanks Jameson and Sarah.

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