Pétillant naturel, aka Pét-Nat, is the original way sparkling wines were made before the advent of méthode champenoise, which is why it’s also known as méthode ancienne. Basically, it’s wine that’s still fermenting, which means it’s far less labor-intensive, not to mention far less time-consuming and expensive, than its better-known counterpart. Because Pét-Nat is not filtered, it can have a cloudy appearance, especially with rosés and reds.
Unlike Champagne, which undergoes two fermentations, the second of which happens in the bottle and can take months (if not years), Pét-Nat is youthful and effervescent—sometimes to the point of being explosive. The wild, yeasty freshness has made it increasingly popular with modern winemakers.
Typically, Pét-Nat is bottled in a Champagne-style bottle and topped with a crown cap. It’s meant to be consumed young, and be warned: Don’t shake it before you pop the top, or you’ll end up with a geyser of deliciously sticky bubbles all over your ceiling, countertops, and (potentially) yourself. Here are a few to seek out if your curiosity is piqued:
2016 Mamacita! Pétillant-Naturel
Day Wines; Dundee Hills, Ore.
Oregon winemaker Brianne Day is a huge Pét-Nat fan: “I like making them because, unlike other styles of wine, they’re a more instant gratification. They taste good and go into bottle while we’re still working harvest.”
She makes this one from 80% Vermentino and 20% Muscat from the Full Quiver Vineyard in the Applegate Valley. It’s filled with zesty apple, a hint of quince, and green fig—a most satisfying quencher. “The name Mamacita came about because the wine originally was made of Malvasia, which my phone kept auto-correcting to Mamacita. The name stuck! Then I decided that Mamacita needed a boyfriend, so I made Papacito.” The labels are as lively as what’s inside.
2016 Pétillant-Naturel Rosato, Mudd West Vineyard
Channing Daughters Winery; Long Island, N.Y.
Made of 57% Syrah and 43% Cabernet Franc, this apricot strawberry-colored beverage hints of spring flowers, dried apricots, papaya, and jasmine. On the palate, it delivers an intriguing mix of rhubarb, raspberry, and guava, with a hint of blood orange and lime. Just lovely, and one of many the winery produces. Order a six-pack and have yourself a bath of bubbles.
2015 Pétillant-Naturel Albarino
Jamesport Vineyards; Long Island, N.Y.
Truth be told, this one was raring to explode—and it did. Driving, persistent, rushing with bubbles, this is a time capsule of bright and crisp New York apples, tangy pineapple, and a dollop of lemon-lime spritzer. A searingly refreshing way to drink lemon meringue pie.
2016 Malvasia Pétillant-Naturel
Onward; Suisun Valley, Calif.
This light and lovely lass from winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster opens with classic lychee, lime, gardenias, charming pink grapefruit, and perfume. What you smell is exactly what you taste. We think all Malvasia Bianca should be sparkling. Just sayin’. As Foster opines, “Risks are worth taking.”
2016 Pétillant-Naturel Rosé
William Chris Vineyards; Hye, Tex.
Made from Malbec, Malvasia, and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from three different vineyards, this blue magenta Methode Ancienne delivers healthy tasting flavors of raspberry, blueberry, lime and pomegranate. Could be perfect for brunch: a nice pair with bacon and avocado omelet. Winemaker, Chris Brundrett, sure likes his rosés. We’re glad he made this one sparkle.