Pet Nat – What's Not to Love?

You know how wine trends change, and every now and then some new style of wine gets so popular all of a sudden everyone is drinking it? It happened with rosé wines, then it was the sparkling rosés a decade ago...

Further development of the wine culture turned more and more shy wine enthusiasts into real aficionados, even wine geeks, so the next big thing was the movement of natural or orange wines. This season something completely new appeared, with a very unusual name – Pet Nat. Never heard? Trust me, if the year hadn't been so crazy, you'd hear more about it. Let's just say that, once again, it was the tiniest Croatian wine region of Plešivica that started this new trend. And naturally, it hit Zagreb first.

“Looks like juice, but it’s not – Cat Nat Coletti from the hills of Plešivica.” Image credit: Franjo Kolarić

Pet Nat is no new invention. Same as with orange, or skin-contact, wines, it's just going back to the ways of our ancestors. Or the French, in this particular case. The name is short for Pétillant Naturel, and it's a simpler, more spontaneous method of producing bubbles. With classic sparkling wines, you take a ready still wine and provoke a second fermentation in the bottle. With Pet Nat, the first fermentation is stopped in the middle, the wine is bottled, and then the fermentation continues on its own. It happens naturally, with no intervention, no added yeast or sugar. As it is not controlled, you never know what you will get. But if everything turns out well, you should end up with unfiltered, somewhat rustic, yet refreshing, easy-drinking bubbles, containing low alcohol and lots of character.

“When made by red grapes, like Portugizac, Pet Nat goes pink.” Image credit: Šember Winery FB

Since Pet Nat is very old-school, traditional, back-to-the-roots kind of thing, it was only natural that the first one on our market would be from a winery with a similar philosophy. It was introduced by Tomac family, one of the pioneers of sparkling wines in Plešivica, now fully into the biodynamic approach. Their first Pet Nat is called Hugo after their dog, and the bottle itself, with a very modern and minimalistic design, stands out among the rest of their labels. As always, others soon followed suit. Franjo Kolarić, the Croatian king of Pinot gris, had a promotion of his Coletti Pet Nat, made from Pinot gris and Chardonnay, early in autumn, when it was still appropriate for a dozen or so people to gather outside and try to have fun, responsibly. Fruity and light, it's the perfect drink for socializing and warm weather. Robert Braje started experimenting, too, and so far launched three different types of Pet Nat, one of them from Portugizac grapes. Šember family also recently gave a hint that their own version, a rosé, is coming out soon.

“The line-up of Tomac Winery. Can you tell which one is Pet Nat?” Image credit: Željko Suhadolnik

An Istrian and a Slavonian winemaker made their moves, too. The wheels are in motion! So remember the name Pet Nat. Give it a chance and give it time. Of course, it will never a big niche or a best-selling crowd-pleaser, but it certainly has a future. Some of the abovementioned Pet Nat wines can be found in Zagreb's specialised wine shops. Personally, for New Year's Eve I'd rather pop open a bottle of the classic Plešivica sparkling wine, and save Pet Nat for the unpredictable spring/summer 2021. But the year 2020 broke all the rules, and so can you.

“Braje family wishes everyone Happy Holidays with different kinds of Pet Nat.” Image credit: Vinogradarska kuća Braje FB

Header image credit:Taste of Croatia

Author: Morana Zibar / Taste of Croatia