Pétillant naturel, or pét nat wines, are all the rage today and it’s easy to see why.
They tend to be more affordable than traditional, Champagne-style sparkling wines. They are often lower in alcohol. They are fun, fizzy and food-friendly too. They aren’t wines to consider and ponder for hours. You chill them well, you pop them open (they are usually closed under a beer-style crown cap) and you drink them.
Want to explore a wide range of different ones at a local winery? Head down to Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, where winemaker Christopher Tracy made 10 (yes, 10) different ones in 2016. Four have been released so far — a white one made entirely of Tocai Friulano, a rosé made mostly with cabernet franc, a rosé made entirely of merlot and this week’s “Wine of the Week,” Channing Daughters Winery 2016 Rosso Pétillant Naturel.
So, how are these wines made? I’ll let Tracy tell you: “This is how it works. We hand-harvest the grapes, whole-cluster press them and settle the juice. We started wild/ambient fermentations in small, stainless steel tanks and watched the ferments very carefully until they were at their tail-end. Then we coarsely filtered the wine and bottled it (with no sulfur dioxide or stabilization) in sparkling wine bottles closed with a crown cap to contain the carbon dioxide being given off by the continuing fermentation in bottle, trapping the gas in solution and making the wine sparkling.”
People have been making sparkling wine this way for a long time — in fact, it’s also known as method ancestral — and it may sound simple, but it’s not. Bottle them too soon and too much pressure could build up in the bottles. Bottle too late and the wines might not carbonate enough.
Tracy’s “Rosso,” which is a blend of 75 percent petit verdot, 19 percent refosco, 4 percent merlot, 1 percent syrah and 1 percent cabernet franc, should be chilled well before opening, ideally upright so that the sediment stays on the bottom of the bottle. Otherwise the bottle may foam over a bit. Tracy says that if you put your bottle in ice for 30 to 40 minutes, that probably won’t happen.
“It’s really about getting the solids at the bottom super, duper cold so they stay put,” he told me in an email. “When they get shaken up the solids offer more nucleation points for CO2 to be released from, hence more bubbles.”
This may all sound like a lot of trouble, but it’s well worth it. The wine, a beautiful bright ruby red in the glass, bursts with cranberry and pomegranate aromas along with faint yeasty, fermentation-born notes. Fresh and crunchy on the palate, it brings those same flavors, along with a little spice, to the palate. The bubbles are soft and frothy, the perfect counterpoint to just a touch of residual sweetness that might dry out as the bottle continues to ferment in-bottle.
It’s almost burger season — and this might be my burger-ready wine of the moment. Pepperoni pizza wants to be eaten with this wine too, though.
Channing Daughters Winery Rosso Pétillant Naturel is available at the winery’s Bridgehampton tasting room for $28.