Update: Pet-Nat Week 2013 is July 10th-14th. If you’re in NYC check out the (free!) tasting schedule.
Visiting Vine Wine in Brooklyn, NY, and seeing my friend Sarah Chappell provided my introduction to the world of Pet-Nat wines. What the heck is a Pet-Nat wine? Well, it’s sparkling. (Hooray! I’m listening with rapt attention.) I’ll let Vine Wine (via their website) explain more:
Pet-Nat is a nickname for petillant naturel, a method of producing sparkling wine by bottling the wine during the the primary, alcoholic fermentation to capture the carbon dioxide that is naturally released. This differs from wines like Champagne that undergo a second, bubble-producing fermentation. Pet-Nats are made using only the sugar of the grapes and native yeasts, making them a pure reflection of their regions and varieties. But, most important for us, they just taste great, varying from dry and cider-y to happy, alcoholic raspberry soda.
I asked Sarah why she was so crazy about these wines that she had to dedicate an entire week to promote them. (Note: she does promote and drink Pet-Nat year-round.) Here’s what she had to say:
Pétillant Naturel, more fondly known as Pet-Nat or some variation thereof, captured my heart because it is a wine that seems created solely for fun. Pet-Nat can have nuance of flavor and is certainly discussion-worthy – particularly because it is not terribly simple to make – but the best part of the wines is how easy and delightful they are to drink. Many have softer bubbles than those sparkling wines produced using the traditional method, and there is a tendency towards a touch of residual sugar that makes Pet-Nat a bit like the alcoholic soda of my dreams.
This focus on fun drinking is part of what prompted Vine Wine to start Pet-Nat Week in 2012. I am the store’s buyer, and when I came on found that Vine Wine’s owner, Talitha Whidbee, and I share a love of pet-nat. So, to kick off the first official week of summer, we organized a series of tastings featuring only pétillant naturel sparkling wines. Vine Wine will be continuing the fun-filled summer boozefest this year in the last week of June, expanding it to include more events and other retailers and restaurants. We want our friends and customers to have a chance to see that wine doesn’t have to be serious all of the time; wine is meant to be enjoyed and shared.
Naturally, I had to have some picks. I left the store with a bottle of 25 Reasons, made by Salinia Wine Company. It’s a Sauvignon Blanc and the grapes spend a long time in contact with the juice (14 days) which gives it extra flavor and texture. The picks:
Mosse Moussamoussettes – A perennial favorite, just back in at Vine Wine and we can’t stop drinking it. All orange blossoms and fresh-picked strawberries with a hint of sweetness. Advanced warning: the 750 is single-serving sized.
Les Capriades Pièges à Filles Blanc – Yes, I am totally trapped by this off-dry white pet-nat from the Loire, especially in magnum. Crabapple and apple peels and tiny, happy bubbles bring all the girls to the yard. And the boys. And everyone. Because this is delicious.
And the Salinia 25 Reasons, obviously! Because who doesn’t like alcoholic Fresca.
Bonus review from Jennifer Schneider, who enjoyed this bottle with me:
Take One: Because Jameson is not a simple man [Ed. note: True.], and because he can never just give me what I want [Ed. note: Umm….], I asked for a Fresca with a sock in it and he gave me a glass of pet-nat. As ever, the result was better then the original desire. [Ed. Note: Phew. And, aww….]
The Fresca flavor is a powerful touchstone for the 25 Reasons. And while no socks were added in the process of creating this wine, the Salinia certainly has some funky notes. Not in a soiled clothing way, but more like a yeasty, fermenting sourdough. So you’ve got this crazy interplay of crisp citrus notes and earthy undertones. But do not be dissuaded by earth, dirt, and soil. The 25 Reasons is a porch-pounder extraordinaire. And, as Jennifer points out in her second take on the Salinia, it shares something in common with some of the most famous and distinct Belgian ales:
Take Two: After going on a lambic beer binge–loving the weird, wild, dusty-sour notes of guezes–Jameson surprised me with a complex and accessible glass of pet-nat. The taste changed from glass to glass as the wine changed temperature and fizziness. It’s an exciting wine to drink that seems like a hybrid for fancy beer drinkers.
Oh, and why is it called “25 Reasons”? Because there are 25 ounces in each bottle. And, be warned, you may consider all 25 Reasons in one sitting.
Top image from The Natural Process Alliance.