Short for the French ‘pétillant naturel’ meaning ’natural sparkling’. The oldest technique for making bubbly wine, the discovery of méthode ancestrale is credited to the monks of St Hilaire of Limoux in 1531. It involves bottling partially fermented, chilled juice and as the temperature under glass rises reviving fermentation, CO² is released that is eventually absorbed into the wine creating the fizz. While this may sound simple, PetNats are surprisingly difficult to get right and are often a labour of love. A very low intervention practise, with no use of additives, liqueur, yeasts, sugars or sulphur. PetNats are usually associated with biodynamic agriculture and the natural wine movement. What makes them particularly appealing in France and a main point of difference is that unlike the four controlled méthode ancestrale AOCs (Bugey, Limoux, Gaillac and Clairette de Die), PetNats are unregulated leaving plenty of room for experimentation. Light in alcohol and sugars, fresh and fruity, with delicate bubbles, these can be great value, festive wines to enjoy without fuss among friends and family.
A wine that changes shape in your mouth and in the glass as its swirled around. A wine with many layers of flavours that start one way, then open up on the mid-palate and deliver a lengthy finish. All great wine is complex, and all complex wines are age worthy. If a wine is over worked or over extracted, it will not age well all great wine starts with top-quality grapes that have a good intensity of fruit, medium-high level of acidity and medium-high level tannins. Ultimately the fruit, acidity and tannins/oak need to be in balance in order for the wine to develop and age well. Factors that can influence complexity include viticultural practices (grape varieties, lowering yields, irrigation, and winemaking practices (grape skin maceration, micro-oxygenation, lees stirring, further ageing). If your preference is for more complex style wines, look out for wines with elegant and savoury notes such as aged Burgundy, Barolo, Champagne.
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