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The Blackhearts Guide to Pét-Nat

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The Blackhearts Guide to Pét-Nat

We’re here to help you get down with the style and the lingo that surrounds it, so that you can feel armed with the knowledge to pick out a Pét-Nat next time you’re in the market for a bottle of fizz!

02 Mar 2021

by The Blackhearts Crew

You might have come across the term ‘Pét-Nat’ while scanning the wine list at your local watering hole and wondered to yourself what it meant. Or, perhaps at a party a friend of yours flexed a little too much in regards to the contents of their wine glass, so instead of asking what it was you just nodded along to avoid sounding silly (you’re not silly at all, by the way!).

Once considered unrefined and primitive winemaking, Pét-Nat has exploded in popularity in recent years, with many producers both new and well-established having a crack at the style. As with all wine styles, Pét-Nats can vary in style and approach – some can be fruity and fun-in-the-sun types of bubbles, whilst others can be a bit more chiselled and savoury. What they all share, however, is an emphasis on being carefree and easy to enjoy!

We’re here to help you get down with the style and the lingo that surrounds it, so that you can feel armed with the knowledge to pick out a Pét-Nat next time you’re in the market for a bottle of fizz!

So, what is Pét-Nat?

Pét-Nat is an abridged name for the French term ‘Pétillant Naturel’, which translates to ‘Natural Sparkling’. It’s also referred to as ‘Méthode Ancestrale’ (not to be confused with Méthode Traditionelle). It refers to a technique for producing sparkling wine, which on paper sounds theoretically less complicated than Méthode Traditionelle, but can be equally tricky to pull off.

Pét-Nat is made by bottling wine during the primary fermentation stage, when the yeast is still hard at work converting sugars to alcohol. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of alcoholic fermentation, and when CO² is produced in a sealed container it creates pressure which in turn makes wine fizzy. Often, the yeast cell sediment is left inside the bottle which leaves the wine cloudy and can attribute a subtle creaminess to the wine’s texture. One of the reasons it’s referred to as a ‘natural’ sparkling is because it was essentially the earliest form of carbonation used, and like most great things: it was discovered by accident.

Pét-Nat differs from the Méthode Traditionelle - a technique synonymous with Champagne, which splits the fermentation into two stages. In Champagne, the sugar in the grapes is first fermented until dry, as you would do when making a still wine. The wine is then blended and bottled with a small addition of sugar or unfermented grape juice to jumpstart a secondary fermentation in the bottle (this process is called dosage – say it in your best French accent) and – voilà! Bubbles. It’s also common for the yeast sediment to be expelled from the bottle through a process called disgorgement, which is why Champagne is pristinely clear, and not cloudy.

So, in essence, Pét-Nat skips a couple of these steps and gets straight to the point. It’s brash, it’s full of personality, and it’s sometimes a little wild - and that’s why we love it!

The rapid rise in the popularity of minimal intervention wines has led to a thirst (yes that was a pun, you’re welcome) for wines with personality and vibrancy. This rise in popularity is, in part, due to the revival of natural winemaking in countries like France and Italy, where a return to winemaking methods of yesteryears is being championed as a way to push back against an industrialisation of the wine industry.

Like many other new-world winemaking countries, Australia is also experiencing its own shift in attitude towards wine. The industry has diversified greatly in the last couple of decades, especially as Australians begin to embrace wines from cooler pockets of the country. These wines are built around freshness and subtlety, as opposed to the oak and brawn that our domestic wines have historically been famous for – though this is not to say that those wines don’t still have a place on the table!

Minimal intervention wines are fun, expressive, and provide an affordable entry point for people into the world of wine without needing to get into the technical talk and snobbery. Pét-Nat is a perfect embodiment of this ethos, making for a glass of wine that places enjoyability and accessibility first!

What producers should I look out for?

Jamsheed

Gary Mills makes a range of fantastic Pét-Nats from his urban winery in Melbourne’s inner north suburb of Preston, sourcing grapes from various locations in Victoria. They are delicious, fruit-forward styles of Pét-Nat which are perfect for swilling in the sun, and have almost as much personality as Gary himself (which is no easy feat!)

Konpira Maru

Sam and Al are the winemaking duo being Konpira Maru, who make a range of minimal intervention wines made with grapes grown as close as Victoria and as far as Queensland. We’re pretty lucky to get regular drops of Pét-Nat from Sam and Al throughout the year, and they are always fun and delicious!

Meadowbank/Dr Edge

Pete Dredge is something of a sensation in Tassie’s winemaking scene, whose reputation for nudity in the winery is eclipsed only by the quality of the wines he produces. Pete makes beautifully complex, more serious styles of Pét-Nat under both the Meadowbank label (where he is head winemaker) and his own offshoot label, Dr Edge. They are fantastic bottles of bubbles, which are well suited to pairing with canapés or a cheese platter.

Pét-Nat without the Booze?

Want to join your mates swilling Pét-Nat in the park but don't feel like drinking? Want the hangs but not the hangover? Meet Monceau, brewers of naturally fermented kombucha and lovers of the low alcohol lifestyle. With a range of products sitting at just over 1% ABV, you can bring the funk to the party with this bottle of fizz and still be slaying it the next morning.

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