Monday, August 3, 2020

Wine. What's it all about? Pét-Nat. And now there's an Irish one!

Wine. What's it all about? Pét-Nat
And now there's an Irish one!  
From Greece to Baltimore!

So what’s this Pét-Nat wine they are all talking about? Firstly, it is an abbreviation for pétillant naturel, the French term that roughly means naturally sparkling.

Is it then a copy of champagne? Far from it. It is the other way around if anything, as Pét-Nat has been around longer. Pét-Nat is bottled while still undergoing its first round of fermentation. The French call this process “methode ancestral” and you may see that on the label. 

You may see “bottle fermented,” or, the Italian, “col fondo,” (more or less a  pét-nat Prosecco). The crown cap and a little bit of sediment are other clues!

The method is pretty widespread across the wine world - I enjoyed a Greek one recently. Most are fun and good with food, especially lighter dishes. Great for al fresco lunches and that is where I came across the Greek - see below.

And now there's an Irish Pét-Nat, though not for sale yet! Produced by Mark Jenkinson Slane Co. Meath. It was unveiled in last Saturday's Drinks Theatre event in Ballymaloe and presenters Colm and Seamus says it is "fantastic, an Irish Pet Nat Rosé from Chardonnay & Pinot Noir vines in Tandardstown". For more, including next Sat's Natural Wine event, check the Drinks Theatre on Instagram.

Entré Vinyes Oníric Pét-Nat Penedes 2019, 12.5%, €13.45 Mary Pawle

Colour of this Spanish version is more lemon than yellow, cloudy. Floral aromas of modest intensity. You will get a big white “head” but it won’t last kissing time. Fresh, plush and, helped by the lovely pleasant feel of the sparkle on the palate, it is instantly accessible, with second glass appeal for sure. All this, along with the white fruit and just enough acidity to ensure a harmonious and easy-drinking experience, makes this one of the Highly Recommended.

Onric in Catalan translates as dreamer and Entre Vinyes is a personal project of Maria Barrena (Azul y Garanza in Navarra), the aim being to rescue old forgotten vineyards and restore a balanced ecosystem. This 60-year vineyard, surrounded by a rich biodiversity, is in the Baix Penedes region (in Catalonia) close to the Med. The grapes used are Xarel-lo (70%) and Muscat.

Azul y Garanza are very happy to add this one to their portfolio, “a clear reflection of the place they come from”. And I’m very happy too that Mary Pawle has imported it. An excellent example of the type and very well priced as well.

Mary Pawle tells me this has proved extremely popular. She stocked it in Urru in Bandon,  Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey  & The Connemara Hamper in Clifden. Worth a try but you'll be lucky to get bottle.

Casa Belfi Col Fondo Organic Frizzante Rosso NV, 11.5%, €21.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny   

This Organic sparkling red wine is made from Raboso grown at the vineyards in San Polo di Piave (where they have been making wines since 1607). It is naturally fermented in the bottle, an Italian Pét-Nat. Raboso is a local Venetian variety named Raboso “Fiery in Italian”. But don’t worry, nothing extreme in this bottle! Piave is named after the local river and is famous for its cows milk cheese and for a decisive battle there during WW1.

Back to our frizzante which has a ruby red colour, with fine and persistent perlage. Fresh and fruity (sharp red fruit), floral and with spicy aromas. In the mouth, it is dry, with balanced tannins and a pleasant acidity. Quite a backbone of flavour and more assertive than white frizzantes. Highly Recommended.

Food pairings: This Rosso is recommended for rich first courses with meat sauces, salami, grilled and roast white and red meat. Serve at 10-12 degrees. This, they say, “is the same type of sparkling wine that our grandparents used to drink”.

Col Fondo: at the end of the alcoholic fermentation, the wine is racked off and stored in stainless steel tanks. As it ages the wine is frequently stirred in order to keep the yeasts in suspension (battonage). When the temperature starts rising in Spring, the time is perfect to make the wine sparkling.The still wine is bottled with some residual sugar and the consequent alcoholic fermentation forms the bubbles. There is no disgorgement. Magic!

Kamara Pure Rosé. A Greek Pét Nat in the Baltimore Sun

In July, we were enjoying a superb lunch in the sunny courtyard (right) of Baltimore's Customs House where Michelin chef Dede now operates. Could this get any better? Believe or not, it did. We (all the customers) were invited to taste one of the wines that the management had been trying out in the shade with Fionnuala of Wines Direct. 

Maria, Ahmet Dede’s business partner, told me they do that here and that they want good wines that their customers can afford, particularly by the glass. Our sample was that bit different, a delicious, light and easy-drinking Pét Nat, not from France but from Greece! What a lovely bonus. A friendly touch in a friendly and cool place. And that rosé went very well indeed with my chicken salad. 

Check Wines Direct for more details here

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