Try this: Pét-nat rosé

By J'aime Cardillo

23 Feb, 2023

Pét-nat has probably been on your radar, and local wine list, for some time now. And rosé is probably your go-to summer afternoon wine. These producers are putting the two together.

Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by the array of pink wines on the shelves at your local bottleshop? The colour spectrum – based on the varieties used – ranges from pale copper to salmon right through to cherry red. 
And then, there are all the different styles of rosé. Dry or sweet, fruity or savoury, still or sparkling. Even pét-nat. 
Pét-nat or pétillant naturel, which translates to ‘natural sparkling', is made using the methode ancestrale technique. It is the oldest method of making sparkling wine, dating back to the 16th century. It's made with one continuous fermentation. There's no addition of secondary yeasts or sugars – the fermenting juice is bottled and fermentation continues in the bottle. The CO2 (which comes from the yeast) is trapped, and causes bubbles to form in the wine.
While pét-nats can be made from any grape variety and in any colour – meaning the characteristics of the wine will differ depending on the varieties used and where the grapes were grown ­– there are a group of producers choosing to focus specifically on pét-nat rosé. 

Wayne Ahrens from Smallfry Wines in the Barossa says he started making his Rosé Petillant Naturel purely because he likes drinking it. "Drinking it reminds me of vintage, you know. A bottle of pét-nat during the year puts you right back in the ferment shed again. For me that's very much part of the attraction, that it's so close to the process, and it tastes of the process. That effervescence in the mouth is all so much part of vintage."

Filling a bottle with juice and then leaving it to do its thing sounds like an easy, no-brainer, task – but actually, it's the opposite.

Five bottles of pet nat on a barrelPoppelvej's pét-nat rosé is a blend of mourvèdre and gewürztraminer.

Wayne says the ultimate challenge is timing. "You have to make time for it during vintage. And you have to be able to bottle on-site because it's really difficult to try and get the right amount of sugar at the right time to a bottler and into bottle."

The 2022 is Wayne's seventh pét-nat from what he refers to as the unknown 'Vine X'. Vine X is old-vine bonvedro, some mataro, and carignan was also once planted. The rosé is a red/white blend with the inclusion of some semillon.

"My personal philosophy – and I know people differ on this – is that pét-nat should be bottled and then only opened when it's being drunk. I think if you disgorge it...I don't know what it is, but it's no longer a pét-nat."

A couple of hours away in McLaren Vale, Danish winemaker Uffe Deichmann produces three pét-nats under his label Poppelvej (pronounced pop-el-vei) – the Nat Sauvignon Blanc, the Stjernenat Pinot Meunier, and the SommerNat Mourvèdre Rose Pét-Nat. 

Uffe generally makes pét-nat using the methode ancestral technique, but when making his prized rosé pét-nat he does prefer to ferment them dry and then add the sugar component. "That way I can add something interesting, like I did with the SommerNat. Mourvèdre and gewürztraminer is not the most obvious blend."

The mourvèdre is directly pressed to tank and fermented dry. Gewürztraminer is then added for its sugar content before being bottled and left for 10 months.

"The big challenge is to get the bubbles right, which means getting the sugar level right just before bottling. I don’t like clumsy pét-nats – the kind that go everywhere when you open them – so I always stay on the lower side of the sugar content before bottling. 

"Because it's bottled so early, you can really capture the fresh, raw, electric components that very young wines have – not many other wines allow you to put it in a bottle at such an early state."

Four to try

2021 Gilbert Pétillant-Naturel Rosé

2021 Gilbert Pétillant-Naturel Rosé

Made from sangiovese grapes, the 2021 Pétillant-Naturel Rosé has a fine bead and is cloudy bright pink in colour. Crisp and textured with notes of watermelon and strawberry leaf.

RRP $28 | Halliday profile |

2022 Poppelvej SommerNat Pet Nat

2022 Poppelvej SommerNat Pet Nat

Mourvedre rosé pét-nat from the Paeroa vineyard in McLaren Vale.

RRP $30 | Halliday profile |

2022 Smallfry Rosé Petillant Naturel

2022 Smallfry Rosé Petillant Naturel

Made from Smallfry's unknown Vine X variety, the 2022 is dusty pink with lavender hues. Musk lollies and sherbet wizzes on the nose. The palate is juicy and fresh with a zesty finish.

RRP $36 | Halliday

Strelley Farm Estate Pét Nat Rosé

Strelley Farm Estate Pét Nat Rosé

Cloudy purple/pink in colour, with exotic notes of papaya, tangerine, and pomegranate. The palate is zesty and alive with bold flavours dancing across the palate: the first pick of slightly unripe strawberries, the skin of a fuzzy yellow peach and a freshly baked brioche. A fine bead carries bright tropical flavours across the palate with a long, juicy finish.

RRP $30 | Halliday