What Is Pét-nat? The OG of Sparkling Wine
Updated: Jan 27
To get started, there are three basic things to know about Pét-nat:
Pét-nat is short for Pétillant-Naturel, which means “naturally sparkling” in French.
It’s an easy-drinking and fun style of sparkling wine that can be made with white and red grapes.
It’s not Champagne; it’s a light sparkler that pre-dates Champagne.
Pét-nat is a type of wine made in the oldest sparkling wine method, méthode ancestrale. The wine is moved from the vat into individual bottles while it is still fermenting (that’s when the sugar of the grapes is converted into alcohol) and then sealed under a crown cap. Thus the wine is bottled before the first fermentation has finished.
This process is unlike Champagne, which is made using méthode traditionnelle, and requires the wine to undergo both primary and secondary fermentation. When a sparkling wine doesn’t go through the second fermentation, the bubbles are a lot softer.
There is only one Pét-nat appellation: the Loire Valley’s Pétillant Originel AOC. But as a winemaking style, Pét-nat has grown increasingly popular and is made in many wine regions, including California, New York, and even the Czech Republic!
So what does a typical Pét-nat taste like?
Pét-nat wines can range from unfiltered (cloudy) and rustic, to clean and bright. They are typically lower in alcohol, around 9-12%, and will often have some level of sweetness from the residual sugar (still within the range of dry to off-dry), which nicely rounds out the wine.
Depending on the winemaker’s style, a Pét-nat may or may not be disgorged (meaning the sediment from fermentation isn’t removed from the bottle). A non-disgorged Pet-nat will have a cloudy appearance and the sediment isn’t harmful.
If you choose one that is cloudy, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to be a super funky wine. I’ve had unfiltered Pét-nat’s that have been surprisingly rustic with vibrant fruit and floral aromas. Again, it all depends on the winemaker’s style.
If you aren’t familiar with Pét-Nat, here are a few that I recommend as a starting place:
How to Serve Pét-Nat
All sparkling wine should be served cold. Take note if you picked a sparkler that hasn’t been disgorged, you should keep the bottle upright for an hour before serving. This way, sediment will be fully rested at the bottom of the bottle.
If you’re looking for a fun sparkler that has a light and fizzy mouthfeel and you want to try something a little more impressive than Prosecco, give Pet-nat a try. Pét-nats are an excellent wine for an aperitif, your next brunch, or in my case, the perfect wine to watch “Normal People” on Hulu.