Paul Edwards: A Guide to Pet-Nat for the Suspicious or Reluctant

In “wine-chatting classes”, the pet-nat is the source of some vehement opinions and controversies. Depending on your perspective (and your generation), pet-nat usually elicits strong reactions. For some, it’s a happy drink, full of complex aromas of youth, fun and funky, and very smashable. For the old-timers, it’s an over-marketed and overpriced fashion accessory, with a tendency to explode upon opening, perhaps even an insult to conventional sparkling winemaking. No description suits me. There’s a third answer – the one presented to me when I asked my best friend what she thought: to which she replied, “What the hell is pet-nat again?”.

Simply put, pet-nat, an abbreviation of natural sparkling, is a simplified, old-fashioned way of making sparkling wine. Unlike most “bubbles”, it does not rely on two fermentations, instead the winemaker chooses to bottle a partially fermented wine, leaving the hungry yeasts to chew up the remaining sugars in the bottle. The by-product of this sugar consumption, besides the alcohol, is CO2, which is absorbed into the liquid in the bottle. Usually, but not always, yeast sediment is left in situ, and cloudy sparkling wine remains under a beer bottle-style crown cap. The result: an explosion of flavor ready to be unleashed.

The style has been heavily marketed as fun summer quaffers in the sun, and for that, it’s perfect. But it doesn’t have to be limited to the summer months. Like many sparkling wines, this is a fabulous aperitif, guaranteed to make your mouth water. I also developed a fondness for pet-nat as a vinous and much more sophisticated version of ‘purifying beer’, enjoyed in the late afternoon after a winter lunch. It’s the perfect pick-me-up for weekend shenanigans.

These three wines represent the evolution of the style. A showcase for the craft of wine that has been learned, evolved and shared in pet-nat production. All three are dry, vibrant, clean and refreshing, and extremely varied. Above all, I appreciate that they are all very different, each individual varietal is richly articulated through the pet-nat. Maybe they’re not as complex as a bottle-aged champagne, but to me that’s like saying don’t eat burgers, when you can have dry-aged full blood wagyu beef for 60 days. There is a time and a place.

One last good tip, courtesy of a friend in the industry. To avoid losing 20% ​​of the contents to a “spurt”, chill the bottle to within an inch of its shelf life, then quickly and confidently remove the crown seal. Plus, the slow and cautious approach just doesn’t suit the style.

KP Naturally 2021 Riesling Pet Nat, $35

Camera iconKP Naturally 2021 Riesling Pet Nat. Credit: Provided

Traditionalist and wine storyteller Michael Kerrigan developed the KP Naturally line in close collaboration with his daughter, Katie Priscilla Kerrigan. Although the mission is minimal intervention, the precision and care taken in the winemaking is evident. Made from Mt Barker Riesling, it opens with punchy aromas of lemon curd and green apple. The signature of Riesling shines through in the fruit profile, the freshness and the notes of spice and crystalline ginger, often seen on young “still” Rieslings. The cord is sumptuous and persistent. Super clean and sparkling. 90/100

Sons and Daughters 2021 Pet Nat Chardonnay, $35

Sons & Daughters 2021 Pet Nat Chardonannay.
Camera iconSons & Daughters 2021 Pet Nat Chardonannay. Credit: Provided

From the Wallcliffe sub-region to Margaret River, Quentin Gobregts crafted a uniquely styled pet-nat using high-quality Chardonnay juice. The juice is cold-settled without enzymes or sulphur. The fermentation is done naturally with wild yeasts, then cooled to slow down the fermentation, until the right time for bottling. The palate is exceptionally refined and delicate in its effervescence. A crunchy bite of red apple malic on the palate combines with flavors of melon, lemon zest, cashews and sourdough. 93/100

La Violetta 2022 Patio Nat, $35

La Violetta 2022 Patio Nat.
Camera iconLa Violetta 2022 Patio Nat. Credit: Nic Duncan

Irreverent local winemaking legend AJ Hoadley tells me that this wine is made from black-skinned Muscat grapes from a high site near Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. Also that the grapes are picked in the middle of the night by the local gnomes. It seems as plausible as some other wine stories. Back in the cellar, the juice rests on the skins for 24 hours before pressing which gives color and texture. The wine is as wonderfully charismatic as the maker. Iridescent pink, with an explosive scent of roses, Turkish delight, candied strawberries. A wave of flavor crashes and tumbles on the (rather) dry palate. Wild crunchy and slightly tannic. So much to love. 92/100

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