Ever wonder what makes your wine sparkling? There are a number of different methods that producers use to create the bubbles. Champagne is made by using the Méthode Traditionelle, in which a dry, still wine gets an addition of sugar and yeast and is bottled. This causes a second fermentation inside of the bottle, thus creating bubbles. Prosecco is produced with the Charmat method, where dry, still wine gets the addition of yeast and sugar and is left in a pressure ready tank. The second fermentation happens inside of this tank, which traps all of the bubbles, and is then bottled. Another way of making sparkling wine is to pump CO2 directly into still wine to achieve a bubbling beverage.
But the oldest and perhaps simplest way of creating sparkling wine is the Méthode Ancestrale, or pétillant naturel (pét-nat) style. To make a pét-nat, we simply bottle a wine before it has finished fermenting. The residual sugar in the wine ferments in bottle, creating light, natural bubbles.
Similar to méthode traditionelle, because the wine has fermented in the bottle, we are left with sediment in the bottom as a result. By AOC rules, for Champagnes this sediment must be removed. In order to achieve this, winemakers put the bottles in riddling racks, which hold the bottles upside down, so that the yeast falls into the cap and neck of the bottle. Next, the bottleneck is frozen to trap that sediment into a plug of frozen wine. Winemakers then disgorge; they uncap the bottle and let the frozen plug fly out, leaving a clean bottle of bubbly wine left. Wine and sometimes a little sugar is then added back to the bottle before it is finally corked and caged.
Not all Pét-Nat wines have to go through this disgorging process, and many producers prefer not to, as they enjoy the natural style of the wine with sediment. While some may be weary of sediment and cloudiness in a wine, others enjoy the added mouthfeel and rustic character.
This past harvest season, we bottled a portion of our Syrah rosé before it had finished fermenting to create a pét-nat style wine. Our bottles have all fermented creating a nice bubbly wine. We’ve turned all of our bottles upside down in order to catch the sediment in the cap, and we have decided to disgorge the bottles in order to achieve a cleaner style sparkling. Soon, we will create ice baths, plunge the bottles, and have a messy day of popping bottles. This spring you will be able to enjoy our Syrah Rosé pét-nat and pop some bottles yourselves!