Pétillant Naturel | Natural Sparkling Wine
Made in the Methode Ancestrale (ancestral method) a 'pétillant naturel’ (Pet Nat) wine is a naturally sparkling product developed in the 16th century. It was in France that this phenomenon began, partly by accident due to the unforgiving climate. While winemakers could produce delicious bottles of wine each vintage, it became an artform to prevent the warm weather of spring and summer from heating up their cellars and bursting their precious bottles. With the heat increase, yeasts became active once again in bottle and pushed more carbon dioxide out of the wine, shattering some glass bottles as they could not handle the pressure.
Deemed the oldest method of making sparkling wine, the French strove to find a way to harness the bubbles and prevent the bottles from bursting every time. Done through a single, continuous fermentation the juice is still in the process of fermentation when it is bottled. As the yeast continues to work away at the sugars, the carbon dioxide is trapped inside the bottle. Therefore upon the opening of the bottle, bubbles burst through the wine to present a naturally sparkling glass. This is in contrast to the Champagne method of blending still wines, that have completed their fermentation, with yeast and sugar liqueurs before bottling to then produce additional bubbles on top of the base wine.
Over the years, the process has been researched and refined to a point where there is less unpredictability and exploding bottles and a lot more enjoyment from popping the cork. The timing is key to this clean ‘pop’, the juice must be watched regularly and be bottled at the point in which the yeasts have consumed most of the sugars but still enough left for it not to be fully converted to wine. All cellar-hands jump into the process when this perfect moment arises, ensuring that it is all bottled efficiently so to not let it ferment too much and create a flat wine, and keep it regulated enough that no bottles will burst.
Drinking a Pet Nat
There is no need to stress about finding sediment in your bottle of Pet Nat. With bottling undertaken with live yeasts, once they have fermented there will be residual cells that have separated from the carbon dioxide. You can consume the sediment, it may add an extra element to your tasting, or simply pour carefully so as to leave the remains at the base of the bottle as you enjoy the deliciously natural bubbles.
When choosing your bottle of natural sparkling, there is likely to be quite an array of options as any grape varietal can be used in the traditional method. Just be prepared to taste a few staple elements no matter what the varietal is. There are likely to be elements of tartness like apple cider, as the process of bottling fermented fruits is not dissimilar. So if you enjoy a bottle of Kombucha, then it is always worth trying a glass of Perpetual Natural sparkling wine.
Since the wine is still undergoing fermentation when it's bottled, it can be drunk very young indeed - within a few months of bottling in fact. Young, it will likely have some residual sugars leftover, making it slightly sweet. But wait a few months and these will slowly be consumed by the live yeast in the bottle; eventually morphing the fizz into a completely dry drink. It is great fun to follow this evolution over time so make sure you buy more than one bottle if you want to give it a go.
Our favourite bottle of Pétillant Naturel wine is a delicious drop from Saumur in the Loire Valley:
Domaine Le Petit Saint Vincent - Cab a Bulles Rose Methode Ancestrale Pet Nat
This bouquet is lively and energetic with bright red berries with lively phenolics. The palate is bone dry with delectable red fruits, herbaceous green peppers and pretty bubbles. Drink now. 100% Cabernet Franc