Pét-nat is an abbreviation for “pétillant naturel”—a French term that roughly translates to “naturally sparkling.”
Traditional Champagne (and other sparkling wines like Crémant and Cava) are made by combining one or more still dry wines—basically, finished wines that have already undergone fermentation—with a small amount of yeast and sugary liqueur. This combination is bottled and aged, and the yeast eats the sugar in the liqueur. This second, in-bottle fermentation produces the trapped carbon dioxide that gives these sparkling wines their bubbles.
Rather than blending different dry wines and putting them through a second round of fermentation and aging, pét-nat is bottled while still undergoing its first round of fermentation. The French call this process “methode ancestral,” and it’s likely been around far longer than other, more complex methods of producing sparkling wine.
That’s not the only difference between pét-nat and traditional bubbly. While classic sparkling wines are typically made from a narrow range of grapes, winemakers are making pét-nat with all kinds of unusual and interesting grape combinations. You can check out a number of those interesting bottles from local producers, when we can get them!