Pét-Nat wines, short for ‘Pétillant Naturel’, are natural sparkling wines made using the ancient French ‘méthode ancestral’ that actually pre-dates champagne
In the world of bubblies, there are different methods for making sparkling wines, and in recent years there’s been a revival of interest in the so-called ‘hipster bubbles’ made using an ancient method that differs from the traditional, or ‘champenoise’ method. To make Cava and Champagne, among others, the traditional method uses a previously fermented base wine to which additional yeasts and sugars are added to initiate a second fermentation in the bottle.
The ancestral method, on the other hand, employs the oldest way of making sparkling wine which simply halts fermentation before bottling, eliminating the need to add sugars or yeasts. In this way, it finishes fermenting in the bottle, retaining the carbon dioxide in a completely natural way.
The Pét-Nats on the market hail from different grape varieties and are usually white or rosé, although reds are made too, and can be dry, semi-dry or semi-sweet. They are very versatile wines that can accompany a wide variety of dishes or be enjoyed on their own at any time of the day.
They are often associated with natural, organic, biodynamic wines, etc. but this is not necessarily the case. However, they do share the fact that they are beautifully fresh, versatile and easy to drink and have the same quality and finesse as we usually associate with fine sparkling wines.
Another typical characteristic of ancestral sparkling wines is that most are bottled and sold with a crown cap, like you’d normally see on a bottle of beer, instead of a cork. Another peculiarity is that most of them are not ‘disgorged’. This means the yeast sediment is left in the bottle giving it a cloudy or hazy appearance, but this is by no means a bad thing. If you prefer th sounds of corks popping, there are disgorged, filtered bottles of Pét-Nat bubblies on the market, complete with cork stoppers.
In Lanzarote, we have two such ancestral wines, both of which have been recognised for their excellent quality. One is made with volcanic Malvasia and the other with the Diego grape variety. They are very exclusive wines from small productions, sold almost unfiltered. In this way they retain the notes and nuances of the grapes they are made with. Every bottle evokes the vintage and unique soil of its origins.
Pedro J. Benasco Curbelo
D.O. Vinos de Lanzarote Tasting Committee