In short, Pét Nat, or Pétillant Naturel, is just one thing: sparkling wine that gets its foam naturally, without any external substances. Adding foam to a wine is not easy, which is why in the production of champagne, crémant, cava and other sparkling wines, external agents are added, for example a dosage consisting of sugar and yeasts. This produces CO2 through a second fermentation, which passes into the base wine. For others, the foam is buried. With Pét Nat, the foam is created by naturally occurring sugar and yeast.
How is Pet Nat made?
How "regular" sparkling wine is made
Sparkling wine can be made in many different ways. Depending on the region, type and tradition, different methods are used to get the foam into the wine. With the other types of sparkling wine, however, either external substances, a "dosage" of sugar and yeast, are added to the base wine. With champagne and crémant , the base wine is poured into a bottle together with the dosage, and the bottle is closed with a cork or bidule. The fermentation triggered by the sugar and yeast then produces CO2 which is effectively pushed into the wine. For other sparkling wines such as Prosecco, Lambrusco, and Asti, this process is carried out in a sealed container, usually a tank.
With other, mostly cheaper, sparkling wines, the foam is simply pumped into the base wine, as with cola or mineral water.
Pét Nat: sparkling wine without external additives
With Pét Nat, instead of adding yeast and sugar, they simply use yeast and sugar, which are already in the juice anyway. This means that the fermentation, the consumption of the sugar by the yeast, is not over when the wine is bottled. This allows the yeast to continue consuming the sugar once it has been filled into the sealed bottle, producing traditional foam in the wine in the same way as with the Méthode. While the traditional method speaks of a second fermentation, since the base wine first ferments to completion in the tank or barrel and then ferments a second time in the bottle with sugar and yeast, this is not the case with Pét Nat. There is no second fermentation, as the first is never interrupted, or simply continues in another vessel, the bottle.
When this process is complete, the Pét Nat is degaussed, as is the case with the Méthode Traditionel. This is the name of the process of removing the remaining yeast from the juice.
Where does Pet Nat come from?
The method of making Pét Nat is also called Méthode Ancestrale and is not a new invention, but probably the original way of making sparkling wine. The first documented sparkling wine, the Blanquette de Limoux, was made using this method in 1531 in Limoux at the foot of the Pyrenees. What may have been discovered by mistake is not that easy to replicate, so other methods have become more popular.
How does Pet Nat taste?
In itself, Pét Nat has no different taste than other sparkling wines, as this mostly comes from the base wine. It would be quite possible to produce Pét Nat and Champagne from the same base wine. One obvious difference, however, is the perlage. With the addition of sugar and yeast, sparkling wines made using the traditional method are often more fizzy. Pét Nat often has a lighter bubble, which is why it is often described as a little "tender".
The alcohol content of Pét Nats is also often lower than that of sparkling wines produced using the Méthode Traditionel. During fermentation, which is caused by the addition of yeast and sugar, additional alcohol is produced, whereby the Pét Nat remains at the alcohol content of its base wine.
Is Pét Nat natural wine?
Some magazines, publications and shops lump natural wine and pet nat (often together with orange wine ) in the same pot. Anyone who has read this article will probably already suspect that this is wrong. Pét Nat is simply a way of making sparkling wine. It can also be produced conventionally, i.e. without organic cultivation and with filtration, fining and other interventions.
Still, the confusion is understandable. Firstly, the proportion of natural wine vintners who produce Pét Nat is much higher than that of conventional vintners, and secondly, the production of Pét Nat is often more difficult for vintners who work conventionally. The reason for this is that conventional winemakers are used to killing or filtering out the yeast with heat, cold or sulphites. Above all, the use of sulphites in the production of the base wine can lead to the yeast no longer being alive during bottle fermentation. Then an addition of external yeast is necessary and this is no longer Pét Nat.
However, the tendency for natural wine vintners to make pet nats is not just because it's easier for them. We believe that natural wine vintners are just used to taking different paths in winemaking. They must come up with creative ways to deal with difficult vintages, such as those that bring rising and falling acidity and sugar levels. A certain curiosity about new things is a requirement there.
Zero Dosage & Brut Nature - the fast Pét-Nats
Zero Dosage Crémant and Champagne are now being seen more and more often. The latter is often referred to as Brut Nature and even as "Ultra Brut" by a well-known champagne house. The terms are mostly used as synonyms and almost always mean the same thing. This is almost an intermediate step between classic sparkling wine, which is produced using the Méthode Traitionelle, and Pét Nat. In this case, the yeast is added to the base wine during the second fermentation, but not or only in very small amounts of sugar.