Pet nat — shorthand for Pétillant Naturel — wines are all the rage these days, particularly in New York City. These are lightly sparkling wines made in a style that, while new to the New York wine industry, is far from trendy or new. In fact, the method is as rustic and old as the wines are fun to drink.
Unlike sparkling wines made using methode champenoise (as with Champagne), where yeast and sugar are added to a fully fermented base wine for a secondary carbonation in the bottle, pet nat is made via méthode ancestral, where the wine is bottled before primary fermentation — the fermentation that converts the grapes’ sugars into alcohol — is complete, capturing the carbon dioxide produced as primary fermentation finishes inside the bottle. The lees are typically left inside the bottle and the resulting wines tend to be lower in alcohol, less aggressively carbonated and sometimes even cloudy compared to méthode champenoise wines.
I generally like the hanful of pet nats I’ve been able to try. They are crisp, refreshing wines that can slake one’s thirst and shine with a wide variety of foods without taking center stage. Sometimes they can get a bit weird or funky, though — they can be a bit flinty or have a sort of earthy-metallic edge to them that can be off-putting to some.
Not every pet nat is a winner.
Leonard Oakes Estate Winery 2014 Petillant Naturel Riesling ($17) is 100% riesling grown along the shores of Lake Ontario (the 2015 will be made from Niagara Escarpmente fruit). That riesling was whole-cluster pressed with limited skin contact. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks with ambient yeast and after three weeks, the wine was bottled at approximately 1% residual sugar. Primary fermentation completed in the bottle.
The resulting wine is a winner — showing great varietal character at a great price. I like it so much that I’m putting it in the November shipment of the New York Cork Club.
Slightly cloudy in the glass with a head that dissipates quickly, the wine is floral with notes of sweet lime, green apple, just-ripe peach and just a bit of yeasty fermentation aroma.
The apple character steps forward on the palate, with the stone fruit, lime and blossom notes stepping back. As it warms just a bit, a delicious spicy, lees-y note emerges as well.
It’s dry (<1% RS) but not hard or austerely so. It tastes so fresh, almost like biting into a green apple drizzled with lime juice. It’s frothy more than sparkling but the bubbles are small and the finish is long and citrusy.
AVA: New York State
TA: 9 g/L