April 2016

Pét-Nat Is the New Rosé

... On the raw end lies Bridgehampton, New York, producer Channing Daughters. For winemaker Christopher Tracy, "some of the fundamental things that set [pét-nats] apart is that they’re fermented wildly, no yeast added. And the bubbles are created by the primary alcoholic fermentation. These are the two most important things. From there, there’s all sorts of seeming deviations, most glaringly I think between disgorgement or not," he outlines.

Disgorgement refers to one way of dealing with the sediment composed of dead yeast cells that remains in the bottle once fermentation is finished. To remove the sediment, winemakers use a process known as riddling, which involves positioning a bottle at an angle upside down so that the pressure created by the carbon dioxide inside will force that sediment out when the bottle is opened—one of the final steps of the traditional winemaking method. The result is a clear wine, like Champagne. Other ways to handle the sediment is to simply leave it in the bottle, as Tracy does: "I personally didn’t want to disgorge because if I’m going to go through the time, labor, cost of traditional production, I’d make a traditional-style bubbly. I think pét-nats are a little more friendly, fun, wild."

In order to preserve his wine’s depth, Tracy turns to coarse filtration, using filtration screens that measure 10-microns compared with the 0.2-micron ones adopted by many commercial-style wines. "You’re basically taking out stuff you could scoop out," he says. Since 2014, Channing Daughters has made pét-nats in all hues, from grapes as varied as syrah, merlot, refosco, pinot grigio, and sylvaner, all complex mixes of sweet and savory that flaunt each varietal's flavors, and all in tiny, buy-them-now production: there are barely more than 100 cases made of each style, which also varies by year. Continue Reading

Producer: Channing Daughters
Wine: Petillant Naturel Rosso, 2015
From: Bridgehampton, New York
Retail: $27

Winemaker Christopher Tracy nurtures his pét-nat’s wild side, making his Rosso from a blend of seven grapes—refosco, syrah, and merlot fulfill the first 89 percent, with Austrian, German, and Northern Italian specialty grapes dornfelder, zweigelt, teroldego, and blaufränkisch comprising the rest. The result is a deeply hazy wine the color of dark red raspberries, with flavors of cranberries, tart cherries, pomegranate, and lavender, along with damp earth and plenty of acidity and sweetness. Complex and wildly joyful, the Rosso works as well as a meditative wine as it does with fresh tomato sauce and herb pesto–topped pastas.

—Susan H. Gordon