In the end, the biggest discrepancy from a winemaking perspective is that Pét-Nat is a lot less predictable than a Champagne-style of wine typically can be. There is a lot left to chance. Does this mean that Pét-Nat wines are not as good as those made in the traditional Champagne method? Not at all. Pét-Nat is just different. A lot, if not overwhelmingly most, of the Pét-Nat wines you will find are very natural stylistically. There is minimal intervention, meaning the wine is not really manipulated by the winemaker whatsoever. Most are unfiltered and not disgorged, so the expired yeast is going to be hanging out in the bottle right up until you drink it. Don't let that freak you out. The lees (once again, expired yeast) contribute enormous amounts of flavor to the wine and are not harmful whatsoever.
Other defining characteristics of Pét-Nat wines will be in look and taste. One visual cue that a Pét-Nat is a Pét-Nat comes from the cloudy, hazy appearance of the wine itself. This is a result of most Pét-Nats not being filtered, so the yeast and other particulates that are commonly removed to give a wine its clarity still remain. The other visual and/or tasting difference that you might notice is that Pét-Nat wines are not as effervescent, or not as bubbly, as a normal Champagne-style sparkling would commonly be. In fact, wines made in the Pét-Nat method seem to almost straddle this line between wine and beer. Lastly, if you are every perusing through the aisles of your local wine shop, the biggest telltale clue that a wine is indeed a Pét-Nat is the closure on top. It you see a crown cap instead of a cork, chances are good that you've found the Pét-Nat wines you were looking for.
We decided to start making a Pét-Nat at Ricci Vineyards because the natural inclinations and versatility of the winemaking style appealed to us. Let's face it, Champagne-style wines are great, but they can be a little stodgy and stuffy at times. Also, most Champagne-style wines are made using a very narrow swath of grape varietals. One of the coolest things about Pét-Nat is that it can be made with virtually any type of grape. The limits are boundless and that's exciting. For our 1st Pét-Nat, we ultimately decided to use the 809 "Muscat" clone of Chardonnay. This was an appropriate choice we felt because although the grape is a Chardonnay, it exhibits many unique characteristics that a Muscat commonly would. In addition, it intentionally provided more distinction over our Carneros Chardonnay (aside from it being a sparkling wine). If you are wondering about a window in which to drink your Pét-Nat, keep in mind this is a wine not intended to be "saved for a special occassion". Open these wines now and drink them immediately because that is what they're for and when they'll be tasting their most delicious.
We know that this wine is going to be a huge hit for Ricci, and as the weather starts to warm and outings to parks, beaches, lakes and rivers become more commonplace, this will be a bottle you will instinctively grab from your cooler as your default Summer-sipper. We hope you enjoy and if you have any questions regarding our Pét-Nat, our other wines, or would like to place an order, please know that we're always here to help. Cheers!