Why Should You Drink Pét-Nat, the Natural (and Affordable) Champagne Alternative

It’s no secret that natural wines are trendy in today’s world of organic this and farm-to-table that. But a sparkling iteration of natural wine—Pétillant-Natural, or Pét-Nat for short—is blowing up thanks to its delicious flavor profile and affordable price point.

Pétillant-Natural, which literally means “naturally sparkling,” is made without additives. This contrasts directly with its vinous cousin, Champagne, which is produced by adding yeast and/or sugar to cause a secondary fermentation that creates fizz. With Pét-Nat, fermentation of yeast and grape sugars is finished in the bottle, creating soft bubbles of carbon dioxide that diffuse throughout the wine.

It’s an old practice—aptly called the “ancestral method”—that actually predates the Champagne method by several hundred years: It was originally developed by peasants in the Loire Valley of France and was rediscovered by mainstream wine culture in the 1990s.

“Pét-nats are pretty cool, refreshing, and digestible drinks that are really affordable,” Robert Parker Wine Advocate reviewer Stephan Reinhardt told us, adding that part of its appeal is tied to its unpredictability. “In the end, the producer doesn’t know exactly how his Pét-Nat will taste,” Reinhardt said. “Will the second fermentation go though and the wine end up fully dry and full of pressure and bubbles? Or is there a certain residual sugar left, which gives a lighter, delicate style with a rather gentle carbonic gas?” Even different bottles from the same production can vary in flavor.

Another surprise potentially lurks before and during opening: Pét-Nats are not disgorged of their dead yeast or filtered in any way— bottles often appear cloudy with sediment at the bottom—which can make the bottle more likely to explode. Be careful when opening!

Reinhardt thinks Pét-Nats will appeal particularly to craft beer lovers, and not just because bottles are secured with a beer-like crown cap rather than a cork. “They’re more rural and less sophisticated in character than traditional sparkling wines,” he said, meaning that they’re perfect for casual barbecues and other get-togethers that beg for a beverage a little rough around the edges.

If drinking natural is important to you and you appreciate a gentle fizz—think sparkling mineral water versus seltzer in terms of bubble-strength—then Pét-Nat is the perfect bottle for you. Here are a few of our favorites.

NV Domaine Giachino’s Vin Pétillant Naturel Giac’Bulles

This fizzy pét-nat is light-bodied and fresh with a subtle fruitiness, making it an ideal apertif or dessert wine. It’s made from organic Jacquére grapes, a variety of white grape from the Savoy region in France.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate Rating: 86
Read the full review here.

NV M. Plouzeau’s Pétillant Naturel Perle Sauvage

Produced from Chenin Blanc grapes that grow in flint, limestone, gravel, and clay, this wine is aged in the bottle for 12 months. Medium-bodied and dry, this pét-nat has strong bubbles with initial aromas of ripe, yellow-fleshed fruits and a mineral finish.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate Rating: 89
Read the full review here.

2014 Red Tail Ridge Winery’s Pétillant Naturel Sparkling Riesling RTR Estate Vineyard

A medium-bodied and medium-dry Riesling sparkler from the Finger Lakes, this pét-nat has a creamy, elegant mousse with notes of spice, quince, apple, and a little bit of yeast. It also has a refreshing acidity that lingers.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate Rating: 90
Read the full review here.