In the December 2018 issue of D Magazine, dining critic Eve Hill-Agnus writes about pét-nats. (No, no, no, not tiny, buzzing, insects, which you keep in a terrarium and feed orange juice to from an eyedropper.) BADUMPSHH! Nah? Whatever.
Rather, a pét-nat, which is short for pétillant naturel, is a naturally sparkling wine made with wild yeast.
At Bar & Garden, the airy, organic, natural wine shop that Julie Buckner Lane and partner Jeff Fritz opened last year in East Dallas, bottles and succulents are interspersed on the shelves. But Buckner Lane doesn’t want customers to miss the pét-nats for the plants. The name is short for the French pétillant naturel, meaning naturally sparkling. Pét-nats are bubbly like Champagne or Prosecco, but belong to the category of natural wines, made employing only wild yeast and time. Bottled before they’ve completed a first fermentation, they’re throwbacks to artisanal methods. “I just think they’re so beautiful and fresh and something a little different,” Buckner Lane says. “It’s an expression of the makers. It feels more sincere to me.” They’re also unpretentious, with their crimp caps and cloudy depths. Try Southold Farm + Cellar’s blushing Texas beauty, a 2017 Sangiovese called A Shot Across the Bow. It’s a conversation starter at parties,” Buckner Lane says, “and a catalyst for a good time and for open minds.”
We decided that these sounded like fun to drink. So, we picked some up from Bar & Garden for a taste test. Here’s what happened.
This odd, changeable, thinnish tart-sour red is Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the U.S. Open. Do we love or hate the dyed white hair that makes her look like an old woman slash Annie Lennox? Do we love or hate the hopefully ironic cherry-covered tank paired with a multi-layered ruffle skirt? Who is to say.
Phew! Fizzy! Smells are on the nose and looks like carbonated, funky cherry juice. Tastes like peppered, tart, sour cherries. If I had dimples, it would make them pucker.
I’d describe this pét-nat—which I’m almost comically qualified to describe—as fruity and tangy, certainly more tangy than any run of the mill red wine. This tang hits, and then it lulls, and then it hits again.
I’ve never seen red this red bubbly. Cooool. It’s light and has a really nice minerality. I like how tart it is; it’s an interesting wine that would be nice on a shaded patio. This is like a lambic.
Has a yeasty smell and under-taste—almost like beer mixed with wine. Not too sweet, would be easy to drink but not that fun.
This heavier, meatier red with a touch of sour is Sam Stosur at the Australian Open. She may continue to fail at singles, but those ripped arms may just win her a second grand slam in the women’s doubles final.
The soft foam fizzes, then clears, and the liquid is deep burgundy. The smell is a little sulphurous, like boiled eggs, a little funky, like sauerkraut. Yikes. But it’s surprisingly smooth to sip, and not as sour. I can imagine drinking this with garlicky food or egg rolls. Don’t ask why.
Wow! This one’s tangy, too. I probably should’ve more thoroughly familiarized myself with what a pét-nat was before doing this taste test, because now I’m probably just naming a defining characteristic, like if we taste tested burgers and I was like “damn, this thing is MEATY.” I’d say number two is a little more tangy than number 1, and with more fizz.
I guess all these are gonna bubble. I’m into it. This one is more sour than the other, and the mouthfeel—is that the thing to say?—is more substantial. Aftertaste seems a little apricot-y? Weird. Didn’t hate it. I’m getting blackberry immediately.
Also yeasty! (This is the first time I’ve had pét-nat.) Sweeter and more floral.
This sparkling rose is Venus Williams at Wimbledon. A strawberries-and-cream winner. Classy and timeless, with an understated attitude and spectacular hair.
So much fizz! Looks like cotton candy. Tases like a nice, dry, tart rosé. Love it!
This is more what I expected to taste. It’s like a rosé champagne with a splash of Miller High Life. (Don’t let Eve read this.)
All right this is a sparkling rosé. To quote the late Pimp C, it’s supposed to bubble. It’s quite acidic, almost lemony. This would be rad with some fish. Leaves an apple-y finish. Are you tired of me writing -y as descriptors? get over it.
Okay, yeah, they all smell like yeast. This one has a pleasant color and I wanted to like it because of that. Kinda sour, in a nice way. More yeasty than others.
This sour cherry pie of a sparkler is Garbine Muguruza at the French Open. All sun, red clay, and smiles.
Smells more like what I recognize: cherry notes, ripe berries. More like a Cab or Merlot. Just fizzy and sour. Would I pair it with a steak? Maybe. It would cut right through crème fraiche mashed potatoes.
Assuming number 3 didn’t throw off my exorbitantly refined palate, number four is markedly less tangy than number one and two. But then…wait! I wrote that and took another sip and the tang attacked. I’m going to keep with my original perception and say this is third-most tangy. It’s not not tangy, though.
This one smells really funky and it’s not as bubbly or minerally as the others. It’s also not tart or sour, and probably the most traditional of the four. I could gulp this with a lean steak.
Smells odd! But again that might be normal for pét-nat. I like this the least.
The winner is: Folicello Il Rosso. This effervescent red wine is fruity and would be killer paired with some cured meats. While I didn’t officially participate in the taste test, I snuck a sip of this, and I agree with the outcome.
There you have it, folks. Get out there and try a fizzy pét-nat for yourself. Until next time.