Bubbles, Au Natural

The Old-School Sparkling Wine Pet-Nat Is Back

Move over Champagne.

By Sean P. Sullivan September 24, 2019 Published in the October 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Grosgrain Vineyards' chenin blanc pet-nat.

Around 2015, an ancestral sparkling wine style called petillant-naturel, or pet-nat, started coming back in vogue. Until last year, though, nearly all these wines you’d spot locally were European imports. Now Washington wineries have entered the effervescent fray. This year saw pet-nats from Grosgrain, Savage Grace, Foundry Vineyards’ Pét Project, Concentric Wine Project, Upsidedown, Hard Row to Hoe, and Gilbert Cellars.

Most sparkling wines, like Champagne and prosecco, get a bump of yeast and sugar, so they ferment again and produce bubbles. But pet-nats get bottled before they finish fermenting, so creating a truly good one is difficult. The maker is bottling an unfinished wine, which might take its own, potentially odd path.

For some that’s part of the fun. The name translates literally to "sparkling natural" and unsurprisingly the resurgence has coincided with winemakers and consumers exploring the boundaries of natural wine (simply: sustainably farmed wines made without additives). Pet-nats, often released young, within months of harvest, tend toward vibrance and play. Maybe the bottle gets a little funky. Maybe the maker releases it cloudy. Maybe, like Pét Project’s grüner veltliner, it has delightful, if enamel-stripping, acidity.

Many natural devotees forgive and even embrace eccentricity if it means exploration—and if it peels back some of the establishment pretense that the wine world can connote. These Washington pet-nats can sit comfortably alongside a wild cider or farmhouse beer. You can even see the similarity: Many come with a crown-cap instead of a cork.

Two to Try

► Grosgrain Vineyards Chenin Blanc Pét-Nat Willard Farms Yakima Valley 2018 $26, grosgrainvineyards.com

► Pét Project Grüner Veltliner Pétillant-Naturel Sparkling Wine Soluna Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2018 $26, petprojectwines.com

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