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  • Writer's pictureElkhorn Peak Cellars

Lets Talk About Pét Nat

Updated: Jun 26


Photo By Evan Roscoe, Beneath the Vines Imaging

If you’re unfamiliar, Pét Nat is short for Pétillant Natural, a French term that describes the oldest sparkling wine method on record (pre-dating Champagne). What makes Pét Nats different from Champagne? Champagne starts with finished barrel-aged base wine, to which a measured amount of sugar and yeast is added at bottling, forcing the wine into a secondary fermentation in-bottle.


On the other hand, when you open a bottle of Pét Nat, you’re drinking a sparkling wine that’s gone through only one fermentation. The grapes go from vine to bottle very quickly, while the wine is still actively in primary fermentation, which means most of the wine work happens naturally in the bottle. The process is fast. It can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Pét Nat winemakers have to trust their fruit and their process, because there is little opportunity for intervention, adjustments, or influence from oak or amphoras.


If you've been with Elkhorn Peak a few years, you know about my passion for Pét Nats and sparkling wines. I’m a winemaker. I make traditional Napa Valley wines and Pét Nats too. I love making both and I love drinking both. Traditional winemaking is a long game. Making Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon takes 24 months, minimum. Making Pét Nats takes 24 days. As a winemaker, I appreciate the long game because it gives me time to think, to move slowly and to move with intention. On the other hand, I have found myself agonizing over traditional winemaking because there is time to do so. Therein lies the beauty of Pét Nats - decisions are quick, the process is fast, and then it’s in the bottle and out of the winemaker’s hands. One style rewards patience and the other rewards quick thinking and both wine styles are reputable in my opinion.


And I'm curious -- aside from the Elkhorn Peak Pét Nats, are you hearing about or drinking other Pét Nats out there? If so, what are your experiences? What do you like/dislike about them? Who's doing them well?


In recent years, Pét Nats have been popping up (fun pun?) in independent wine shops everywhere. Last month I saw them on an endcap at my local Whole Foods. Have they hit mainstream store shelves in your market yet? If not, my bet is you’ll likely see them there soon.


As Pét Nats become more mainstream, defining them seems to be getting harder to do too. They aren’t varietal specific, they aren’t region specific and they come all the shades of the rainbow. Are some sweet? Yes. Are some dry? Yes. And then there is the literal and philosophical question: to disgorge or not to disgorge. This question seems to be at the forefront of defining Pét Nats…but is that fair? I find the mystery around what to expect from a bottle of Pét Nat refreshing (another fun pun?) and interesting. And God Damnit, I think that’s fun.


Pali Wine Co. recently released a Pét Nat called “Chardonapple” which is described as “a 50/50 blend of estate grown Chardonnay and Newton Pippin apples, with a cheeky smooch from some spent Pinot Noir Skins.” (@PetNatposse)


Are Pét Nats lawless? Yeah, I’d say so. And I support these outlaws in the wine industry. To me, Pét Nats encourage experimentation and innovation in an industry that’s steadfast in its devotion to tradition. The wine industry is big; there’s enough room in it for a little bit of experimentation.


The Plug


The 2022 Elkhorn Peak Pét Nat of Pinot Noir and Caber-Nat are releasing in May 2023!! When they drop, you will find them here: https://shop.elkhornpeak.com/Shop/Current-Releases


If you're new here, with every new release of Pét Nat comes new 70's pop art labels; no two years are the same. Each label is inspired by Ken's antique pinball and slot machine collection. And each label is developed with the help of our talented friend, Britney Stanley. You can check out more of her work at justgohomedesign.com.


Cheers and keep the good stuff,

Elise





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