Forget Champagne: there's a new (but old) variety of bubbles that everyone will be drinking this summer.
It's a swell that has been building over the last few years and now, all of a sudden, a massive wave of pét-nat wines from the 2016 vintage are breaking on the Australian scene.
"Pét-nat", short for pétillant-natural, also known as méthode ancestrale, is considered the oldest and simplest method of marking sparkling wine.
Whereas conventional sparkling – like Champagne – typically involves adding a "dosage" of sugar to dry wine to create a second fermentation in the bottle, thus the bubbles, pét-nats are bottled before the wine has finished fermentation. This lets the yeast continue to consume the sugars in the bottle and make their delightful byproducts of alcohol and carbon dioxide aka the bubbles.
They're slightly fizzy, very often cloudy, come in a range of colours, and sometimes more closely resemble cider than traditional grape sparklings and the current day inspiration for the style stems from France's Loire Valley.
A developing trend
The indicators of this new trend in bubbles have been firing all over the place. Bar Brosé in Sydney have started a monthly Pét-Nat Party; established players like Stefano Lubiana are getting in on the action, and then there's new label The Other Right from Adelaide Hills, where half of their releases are pét-nats.
From nothing five years ago, all of a sudden, we now need two zeros to count the number of pét-nats made in Australia.
As sommelier Gavin Wright from Bar Brosé recalls, "Winemakers would come in to show us their range and it was only a few years that they started saying, 'hey, do you want to try this little side project'."
The early days
One of the first Australians, from my knowledge, to make a local pét-nat was Gilles Lapalus at Sutton Grange in 2011.
"The people I was working with in Macedon to bottle the pét-nat, hadn't done one before. This year they did nine in the region."
That 2011 Sutton Grange wine, titled Ancestrale Rosé, was a blend of Syrah (Shiraz), Sangiovese and Viognier. Lapalus now has his own label, Bertrand Bespoke. With it he has a pét-nat made with Syrah, Nebbiolo and Semillion grapes, the latter of which was fermented on skins ("skin contact whites" being another recent trend in whites).
Throwing out the sparkling rulebook
Meadowbank in Tasmania have blurred lines by blending fermenting-wine back with dry wine to create a second fermentation in bottle which looks more like traditional sparkling, but theirs has a slight bitter tannin finish thanks to skin contact Chardonnay.
In the warm Riverland – the last place you'd go to make a traditional sparkling, Delinquente Wine have made one with Bianco d'Alessano, which is, by the way, from the only Bianco d'Alessano vineyard in Australia. Chenin Blanc pét-nats are being made in from Margaret River to McLaren Vale, by the likes of Dormilona and Jauma. Riesling, from Eden Valley (I'll Fly Away), to Canberra (Ravensworth), to Tasmania (Domaine Simha), is getting the treatment too. And the list goes on.
The Other Right make four: a red, a white, a rosé, and an "orange" skin contact Viognier, which means pét-nats constitute around half their range.
The possibilities of colour with these wines are the first thing that grabs you; and we do taste with our eyes. Pét-nats bring a new pantone experience to the wineglass – beyond white, rosé and red – they can come in luminous hues of yellow, pink and orange.
And you can taste such contrasts between interpretations. Brave New Wine's Little Sister Pinot Noir from Great Southern captures the fleeting grapey and summertime lucerne taste of a fresh red ferment and is brooding by comparison to the daintiness of Yangarra's Pét-Nat (Grenache, Graciano & Cinsault) from McLaren Vale, which has a moreish strawberries and cream thing going on.
Lastly, the growing pét-nat party has been in no small part due to the wine loving Instagrammers, who, combined with the "hashtag winemakers" and "hashtag winebars", created the perfect storm and massive wave that's hitting the Australian wine scene.
Check out the gallery above for some of the best pét-nats to become familiar with this summer.