Yearning for a new sparkler? “Pét-nat” or pétillant naturel wines are light, playful sparklers generally produced via a single fermentation in the bottle. “It is a freshly fermented wine, bottled with still-active yeast present, giving the wine its natural sparkle,” says La Prenda Wines winemaker Mike Cox. Cox explains that traditional sparkling wines age for 12 to 24 months, which is great for the complexity of the wine, but means it can lose a bit of that snappy, fresh feel. Pét-nats have that crisp character in spades.
Pét-nat styles also bring out fruity, aromatic flavors, so winemakers often like to experiment with grapes other than traditional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Cindy Cosco, owner and winemaker of Passaggio Wines, made her 2019 pét-nat with Grenache Blanc. “These varieties have high acid, nice flavors, perfect for a sparkling base,” she says.
Because each bottle undergoes its own separate fermentation process, each bottle of pét-nat is unique, explains Cosco. And pét-nats often have an extra-big rush of bubbles upon opening. “I tell people who buy a bottle, stand back when you’re opening it. That thing—it can gush out pretty quickly,” she says.
Though this method of winemaking dates back to the early days of French wine production, there are no set rules about how exactly the wine style is produced. That’s lucky for Two Shepherds owner and winemaker William Allen. In the fall of 2020, he had to take a different route to create his popular canned pét-nat, Natty Pets. “We were planning to pick our Picpoul, had lined up a canning date—and then the firestorms happened. We had to do about half our harvesting in two days. There was no way we could stop and do the canning.”
To save the harvest, Allen froze the juice. Once things settled, he defrosted it, fermented it, then did a forced carbonation before canning the wine. “Our biggest driver is a consistent positive wine experience,” he says. “A lot of people think that this is the best of our three sparkling wines.”
Three to try
Passaggio Wines 2019 Grenache Blanc Pétillant Naturel
Aromatic with notes of white blossom, citrus and stone fruits, the palate is quite dry. “It’s almost like a very light, aromatic beer,” says winemaker Cindy Cosco. “I really like the bubbles on this.” Cosco says it’s great with brunch or a simple cheese platter, enjoyed with friends.
$30, 707-548-5366, passaggiowines.com
Two Shepherds Wine 2020 Natty Pets
Made from 100% Picpoul. “What better grape to use for sparkling wine than something called ‘the lipstinger?’” says winemaker William Allen. His canned pet-nat is bright, fresh, and dry, with just a touch of texture from 12 days of skin contact. Allen enjoys it as an aperitif, but also recommends it with sushi, ceviche, and empanadas.
$11 per 375-ml can, 415-613-5731, twoshepherds.com
La Prenda Wines 2020 Carneros Pétillant-Naturel “Cadillac”
A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, winemaker Mike Cox describes this sparkler as fresh and fruity with lots of crushed strawberry and floral aromas. “It’s crisp—but not tart,” he says. Cox loves it with charcuterie from Salumeria Ovello on West Napa Street in downtown Sonoma.
$28, 707-938-7228, laprendawine.com