Say hello to Champagne's cooler cousin. Quietly fizzing away on the menu over the last few years, Pet-Nat (or PétiIlant Naturel) is finally having its time in the spotlight.
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Never far from the shot, splashed around at picnics, celebrations, and intimate dinners, the lightly sparkling Pet Nat is always present, ready for any kodak moment.
The phenomenon doesn’t appear to be exclusive to this corner of the world either, seen in the hands of creatives I admittedly stalk online, across the globe.
It seems Pet Nat is well on its way to becoming a defining icon of the early 2020’s, alongside Rihanna’s baby bump and air fryers.
I was first introduced to the sparkling wine pre ’unprecedented times’, at a wine bar on Auckland’s eccentric Karangahape Road, lapping up the sun with colleagues mid-week. My friend described a gently fizzy wine that goes down as easily as lemonade.
A natural-born cynic, I was sceptical; it looked awfully like a white wine - a drop I prefer to avoid wherever possible.
Like a lot of my friends, I spent my misguided youth seeking out a bottle of Sav for our usual Thai BYO prior to a night on the town. Dollar to drink ratio was usually the marker of a perfect choice; never without a defining acidic aftertaste of a $7 bottle.
To my pleasant surprise however, orange-tinted Pet Nat was just as described - fruity, but with a refreshing twist. An easy, yet complex drink; it was love at first sip.
Knowing a good Pet Nat is an instant ticket to becoming the cool wine friend - you are in on a secret and it doesn’t disappoint.
While it may have associations with those in the know, Pet Nat is no newcomer to the scene. Predating traditional Champagne, the wine is, actually, the most ancient form of sparkling wine.
Using a technique known as ‘method ancestral’ to naturally capture the fermentation process while being bottled, it is a simple wine designed to be drunk young.
“Unlike Champagne and Prosecco, nothing is added or taken away while crafting, with the co2 already brewing in the bottle doing all the work,” says Peter Windram of Natural Order Wines - a winemaker in Byron Bay who started selling natural wine before deciding to take the reigns and making their own out of a want for a good, natural drop.
Credit: Natural Order Wine
Similar to my previous wine selection methods - which are, thankfully, well behind me; the results can often be unpredictable. Peter describes the technique as largely uncontrolled, and “can vary from a tiny amount of fizz, to a heaving foamy mess.
"The wines are mostly cloudy (unfined and unfiltered) so they have a great deal of texture and intrigue, unlike household sparkling wine.” He likens it as “the gateway wine for people’s foray into the natural wine world”. I’m here for it.
Joining the wave of natural wine, Pet Nat stands out for its mellow, yet refreshing fizz. Each batch is distinctly unique, and complex - a wine with personality and punch.
It’s really no surprise Pet Nat is having a moment. We've developed an unusual attachment to anything fermented as of late, with millennials adopting sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and kombucha with vigour. Health is wealth, right?
Speaking with Michael Ingham, ConGreg Grigoriou and Milly Badman of the unorthodox Delinquente Wines - a South Australian vineyard known for its bold brand, they believe the appeal for winemakers is the ability, and freedom, to experiment more with flavour and layers, unlike traditional Champagne.
Credit: Delinquent Wine Co
“Anything that’s cloudy, funky or fermented has the tick. Flavour profiles of Pet Nat can vary depending on the grape varieties used.
"Tart and fresh acidity, blushing bright red fruit, or crunchy pears and stone fruit. There is generally a dry, yeasty, some-what savoury tone that follows through with each wine.
"The cloudy part towards the bottom of the bottle sometimes gets a bad wrap - but it can be the best bit!”.
Windram agrees on the variation of unexpected flavours, keeping you on your toes with every celebration, suggesting you’ll find hints of fruit rind - particularly orange, lemon, mandarin - combined with yeasty sourdough notes and bold acidity. “It is common to get sherbert and subtle salt characters. All in all, it’s playful and interesting stuff.”
In an industry that can sometimes take itself a little too seriously, the secret to a good Pet Nat seems to be a completely unadulterated approach, with each vineyard finding their own playful take on the titular drop. And it seems to be working, given the number of trendy natural wine bars popping up in suburban outcrops championing organic varietals.
A drink for any occasion, Ingham finds Pet Nat to be the perfect wine to circle back to after a long night, or even the next day. “It’s a welcome palette cleanser - refreshing as hell!”. He suggests it's the perfect, and fresher companion to creamy cheese laden charcuterie boards; another millennial icon.
A wine that feels lighter than prosecco, and lighter on the wallet than Champagne, Pet Nat is finally having its moment in the limelight.
I think I’ve developed somewhat of an obsession with the drop, with Windram poetically describing it as having a subtle romance, authenticity, chance, and unhomogenised honesty. The perfect companion. In other words, Pet Nat should be your next tipple.
A few of our favourites: