While it’s been making increasing appearances on American wine shelves, pétillant naturel – which translates to “naturally sparkling” – dates to the early sixteenth century in Limoux, France
, when monks were the first to capture bubbles in a bottle. In fact, though it’s sometimes referred to as Champagne’s hipster cousin, pét-nat pre-dates the traditional Champagne method by centuries. With emphasis on the wine’s natural flavors, rusticity, and spontaneous elements, pét-nat has a wild, unpredictable essence that sets its spritzy style apart.
As one of California
’s natural-wine pioneers, Jared Brandt, winemaker at Berkeley’s Donkey & Goat
winery, was drawn to pét-nats for two reasons: He loves sparkling wine, and he’s committed to making wine with minimal additions and manipulations, allowing the environmental elements to shine through. In 2010, he helped lead the West Coast pét-nat wave with Donkey & Goat’s first pét-nat bottling, using fruit from Conzelman Vineyard in the Anderson Valley to make a natural sparkling chardonnay.
“I feel this site expresses itself best as a pét-nat,” he says. “It’s just a soulful interpretation of the vineyard.”
Since each bottle is its own individual, free-spirited fermentation, pét-nats vary in many ways – some can be hazy or cloudy, and the bubbles take on a more mellifluous fizz. Add the typically lower alcohol content, and pét-nats are perfectly food friendly. “I think the wines are fresh, approachable, and offer that element of surprise – all things that many wine drinkers are seeking today,” Brandt says.