Light, bubbly and billed as champagne's cooler little sister: here's what you need to know
Panic over, we don't have to stockpile prosecco this summer. In fact, we don't even need to drink it at all because there's a great English alternative in town.
Called pétillant naturel (which means naturally sparkling) or 'pet nat' for short, it's a wine made from a centuries-old French process. Bottled early in its fermentation, it's fresher, lighter and has a lower alcohol content – just under 10%, compared to champagne's average 12% – than other sparkling drinks.
Billed as “champagne’s hip younger sister”, these bubbles are making their way to Britain thanks to Monty Waldin, believed to be the only UK producer who makes Monty’s Pet Nat with Albury Vineyards in Surrey. We had a chat with him over glass or two.
Where it all started …
Monty has always been into naturally fermented wines. “The first sort of wine I made as a kid was still fermenting in the bottle, so it was slightly fizzy and made from supermarket fruit. It wasn’t that alcoholic, but what I liked about it was the simplicity – back then, it was oranges and now it’s grapes.
"The idea is you are just bottling the wine while the yeast is still working: pet nat means 'tongue tingling', which is a good way of putting it.”
Wine-making in the UK
“It seems that wine-making in the UK used to be treated as a bit of a joke but perceptions have completely changed as more and more producers are investing in it.
“To make champagne, it’s a really convoluted process and you require sophisticated machinery – the pressure inside a champagne bottle is the equivalent of an entire London bus tyre – so you need to know what you’re doing otherwise it’s quite dangerous. Pet nat is the opposite of that.”
The taste of pet nat
Enough of the technical stuff. What does it taste like? It’s like a cider crossed with champagne: light, citrus-fruity with a savoury undertone and a hint of a sparkle.
“It’s only 10% alcohol so it’s slightly cloudy. It’s the sort of wine you could even have for breakfast, should you wish!" says Monty (although we don't advise doing this!). "It’s good for people who want to drink wine, but don’t want to get absolutely sloshed. There is a trend for reducing alcohol content in wine, which is good for English sparkling wine and pet nat in particular."
Stock up on the newest drink
Bottles of pet nat retail for about £19.99 and Monty suggests “it’s good with a creamy risotto, fish dishes and even for a sandwich with a picnic. It’s fairly versatile.”
Next up, Monty is considering a pet nat rosé based on one of the pinot grapes. And by this time next year, we bet he'll no longer be the only pet nat maker in the UK.