Pet-Nat, an Extra Brut Bulgarian Riesling

May 14, 20 Pet-Nat, an Extra Brut Bulgarian Riesling

A few years ago, I started to hear the phrase ‘Pet-Nats’ making the rounds in the wine trade. As we have loads of natural wines here in London, I soon found out that Pet-Nat is short for ‘petillant natural’, a French term for wines that are naturally sparkling. It’s also known as the Ancestral Method.

Pet-Nats may be gaining familiarity and popularity amongst the general wine buying public but they have been around for centuries. They are actually the grandfather, so to speak, of champagne. The main difference between the two is that pet-nats are bottled before the first fermentation has finished, whereas champagne is bottled after the first fermentation is done and the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. There is a lot less control in the pet-nat wine making process but this is what makes them unique, you never know quite how the wine is going to turn out. You will, however, get a wine that is slightly ‘rustic’ in nature, with far fewer bubbles then champagne. They usually have a light fizz and are cloudy because there is usually little or no filtration of the finished wine.

I would say Pet-Nat is similar to the Italian Col Fondo, but that’s for another blog post.

We have a couple of pet-nats in the shop, including the newest one, a riesling pet-nat from Bulgaria, made by Tsarev Brod, the same producers, who I wrote about here.

Riesling Vineyards

The Extra Brut Pet-Nat Riesling is from the vineyards of Tsarev Brod which are situated near the Black Sea coast. Because no dosage is added to the wine, as in champagne production, the grapes are picked when they have 19% sugar content so that there will be residual sugar left after fermentation to produce enough bubbles. The wine is fermented in small stainless steel tanks and bottled at 35% residual sugar content so that it can finish fermenting in bottle. The end result is a wine with 11.5% alcohol, what I like to call a ‘breakfast wine’!

I was quite surprised when I tried the Riesling Pet-Nat, I was expecting a sweet-ish wine but this was zippy and fresh, with loads of acidity! It did calm down a bit after awhile but there was still plenty of crisp apple and citrus fruit notes, especially lime. The bubbles were soft and I thought they might dissipate quickly but I tried the wine again the next day and there were still plenty of zest left in it.

This is a great aperitif wine or pair with light salads and shellfish.

We have the Riesling Extra Brut Pet-Nat here at Hootch (we’re in the basement), retailing for £16.50.

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