Skip to main content

What is Pét-Nat Why Will It Be Your New Favorite Sparkling Wine?

As gentlemen with great taste and the thirst for the next best thing, we’re always on the lookout for a drink that will excite not just us, but those that we introduce to it as well. Well, we’ve found that in Pétillant Naturel, a style of sparkling wine that is unpretentious, delicious, and outdates its more popular cousin, Champagne, by quite a bit.

Pétillant Naturel wines (Pétillant being French for “sparkling”), more commonly known as Pét-Nats, are created in the méthode ancestrale (ancestral method). If the method’s name didn’t give it away, Pét-Nats are some of the oldest sparkling wines out there and, as they say, are having a moment. (If we have anything to do about it, though, it’ll be more than just a moment.)

pet nat wine
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To learn more about Pét-Nat and why everyone should be ordering it next time they’re on a hot date, we spoke with Phil Johnson, Sommelier of Gloria, which is located in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City.

First, it’s important to understand a how it’s made.

Méthode ancestrale wines become sparkling not by adding yeast and sugar (as in Champagne), but by capturing the bubbles produced by fermentation from the already existing wild yeasts on the grapes, and the sugar in the grape juice,” Johnson says. This process creates a wine that is light, fizzy, and utterly drinkable (we won’t judge if you do it right from the bottle).

Some of the first evidence we have of sparkling wines dates to 1531, when some Benedictine monks documented making a sparkling wine that they called Blanquette de Limoux.  It makes sense when you think about it. If you were cooped up with a bunch of dudes in a monastery, why wouldn’t you make booze?

Flash forward about a century, Johnson says, and you meet English scientist Christopher Merret, who was responsible for documenting the addition of sugar to bottles to create a secondary fermentation in wine (this would create a drier wine with more and finer bubbles and a higher level of alcohol). At the same time, glassmakers were creating bottles that were more explosion-proof than their predecessors.  It was about this point that the Benedictine monks, again, take the lead in sparkling wine knowledge, led by a monk named Dom Pérignon (yes, he was a real person).

So, if they came first, why wouldn’t they be more popular stateside? Easy, Johnson says. Pét-Nats never took off because we Americans drink whatever other Americans are drinking at the time (or whatever the celebrities that Americans follow on Instagram are drinking). For example, in the Colonial era, this was rum and cider. Skip ahead to the 1990s and that manifested itself (and still does, to an extent) in all things vodka. When you look specifically at why Champagne won out, it boils down (bubbles up?) to marketing.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

“Champagne houses were very good at branding themselves. It was a luxurious product that was affordable, the bottles and logos were glamorous.  Those who were drinking Champagne were glamorous,” Johnson says.

To look at the bright side, the benefit is that Pét-Nats are affordable, especially compared to some of the astronomic prices at various Champagne houses. You can easily find a number of different bottles all under $50.

Going along with the affordability, the wines themselves, Johnson says, are much more approachable than other sparkling wines. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a summer barbecue, or you watching the snow fall at your local joint in the East Village, Pét-Nats make the perfect companions.

“These wines are not buttoned up or serious, and neither should the food be that you’re enjoying them with be,” Johnson elaborates. “Think raw bar, meats and cheese, snacks, paté, pickles, vegetables that you eat with your hands.”

Basically, if you’re in a place where you can eat everything with your hands, you’re golden.

As for which Pét-Nats to try, a good place to start (according to Johnson) would be the “grandfathers” of the modern Pét-Nat movement, which started in the 1990s. These producers are Thierry Puzelat and Christian Chaussard of Domaine Le Briseau, and Pascal Potaire of Les Capriades.

“These winemakers are located in the Loire Valley, the epicenter of Pét-Nats, and employ grapes like Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Grolleau, and Pineau d’Aunis,” Johnson adds.

If all of this sounds good to you, now is the perfect time to get in on the Pét-Nat movement. The more people interested in the wine, the better, according to Johnson.

“I’d like to hope that people are bored of mass produced anonymous and forgettable Prosecco. I hope that we can all take a stand against insanely overpriced Champagnes made by corporations,” Johnson says.

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
This is what wine tasted like in ancient Rome, and we have thoughts
Here's what Roman wine tasted like
Ancient Roman wine sign.

Wine and people go way back. The oldest evidence of the stuff goes back more than 8,000 years, in what is now the Republic of Georgia. Then came the Romans, who perhaps made and guzzled the most wine of any era or empire.

Research has revealed how these wines were made, but what did they taste like? Archeologists have cracked the code, as revealed via a new study published in Antiquity. The wine was most akin to the skin-fermented and slightly oxidized wines that are trending today -- aka, orange wines. According to the report, the wine boasted notes of bread, apples, and walnuts. Researchers even used curry as a means of describing the aromatics of these wines.
Why such a flavor?

Read more
How to age fish at home (your new favorite hobby)
Aging can enhance and preserve the flavor of fish. Here's how the pros do it
Aged fish by PABU

You’ve definitely heard of aging beef and curing pork into charcuterie goodness before, but maybe you’re not familiar with another protein that can be aged to texture and flavor perfection: fish. While the aging process for fish is typically much shorter than that of meat (think 24 hours compared to three weeks), letting it rest before cooking or serving it as sushi gives it a more toothsome texture and deeper, richer flavor.

To learn more about how to age fish and why it’s so beneficial, we turned to Ben Steigers, the former executive chef at Boston’s PABU. The restaurant has since closed, but it specialized in traditional izakaya, like seasonal small plates, tempura, house-made tofu, and fresh sushi and sashimi, some of which was made even more delicious by employing aging techniques. If you want to try it for yourself, follow Steigers’ careful instructions on how to age fish at home.
The benefits of aging fish

Read more
The best kosher wine for your Passover celebration
Manischewitz isn't your only option anymore.
Passover spread

Living in the current wonderfully rich and diverse world of wine, it's hard to imagine when kosher wine was hard to come by and consisted mainly of Manischewitz - a syrupy, often cloyingly sweet wine made from American Concord grapes. We raise our glasses with you for those who love Manischewitz for its rich history, traditional significance, or nostalgic draw, for there is nothing more important than traditions that hold special meaning in our lives. But for the observant among us who are craving something a bit more complex or sophisticated in their glass, kosher wine options have opened up significantly in recent years. Winemakers all around the world are now creating certified kosher wines from an immense variety of grapes and in a wide range of styles, including sweet, semi-sweet, dry, and sparkling.

While observant Jews have certain food restrictions, including shellfish and pork, and during Passover, yeast-leavened bread, certified kosher wine doesn’t restrict the options and styles of wines available. Kosher wines classified as mevushal (cooked) wines have an extra step during production that - to some drinkers - lowers the quality of the wine. Thankfully, though, technology has helped to greatly improve the current available options.

Read more