by Drew Baker
There’s a new sparkling wine on the scene. Okay, actually, it’s ancient. Pétillant naturel (commonly called "pét-nat") is an all-but-forgotten wine style enjoying revival. Pét-nat is popping again with the attention of sommeliers and wine enthusiasts around the globe.
This simple, natural style of sparkling wine made its debut in France’s Loire Valley half a millennia ago and is resurging in trending appreciation. Pétillant naturel (lit. “naturally sparkling”) also known as méthode ancestrale (ancestral method) is fresh and fizzy while displaying authentic handmade qualities. Educated and adventurous wine enthusiasts love her raw, unpolished vitality. Pét-nat is alive.
How it’s made
Pét-nats are made by bottling still-fermenting wine under cap and allowing fermentation to finish in the bottle. As yeast converts sugar to alcohol, naturally occurring carbon dioxide makes the wine fizzy. Once fermentation is complete, the bottle cap and sediment are removed, and the bottle is recapped. That’s when pét-nat is ready to be chilled for a sunny spring day. This ancestral method pre-dates Champagne and unlike the “Champagne method” which undergoes a second fermentation by adding sugar and yeast, the ancestral method allows the initial fermentation to finish in bottle without any additives.
Why it’s popular
Beyond the fact that it’s downright delicious, pét-nat doesn’t have any additives, there’s no blending, and the all-natural process is a direct reflection of the vineyard and the vintage. Once the still-fermenting juice is bottled, you don’t taste it again until it’s in your glass. This makes it a little unpredictable, and that spontaneity is one reason why it’s so popular.
Welcome her to Maryland!
Old Westminster Winery is set to release the first two pét-nat wines ever made in the Old Line State this spring.
The first is handcrafted from Albariño grapes grown in the rocky soils of their Home Vineyard. A timely harvest on September 2, 2015 captured freshness and bracing acidity from the vineyard. Fermented spontaneously with wild yeast in stainless steel. Just before fermentation was complete, 400 bottles were hand bottled and capped on September 19, 2015. This wine offers a dazzling and vivid expression of Albariño -- high acidity, apricots and limes, distinctive texture and only 11% alcohol by volume.
The second is handcrafted from Grüner Veltliner grown at Cool Ridge Vineyard on a limestone hillside in western Maryland. A timely harvest on September 8, 2015 captured beautiful, ripe flavors and balanced acidity from the vineyard. Fermented spontaneously with wild yeast in stainless steel. Just before fermentation was complete, 1,000 bottles were hand bottled and capped on September 23, 2015. Pét-nat Grüner is funky and delicious. Minerally, viscous and fresh; A treat for all wine geeks.
Old Westminster's team is especially passionate about this project because they love crafting wines that reflect the vineyard. These wines offer an authentic expression of the Old Line State – refreshing, distinct and intriguing.
Catch pét-nat before she's gone!
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