Champagne may be the world’s most famous sparkling wine, but it wasn’t the first. Long before the meticulous blending and ageing of méthode champenoise, winemakers were using the méthode ancestrale to make naturally effervescent wines known in France as pétillant naturel or, colloquially, pét-nat. These fresh and unpretentious sparklers are now made across the winemaking world, from France’s Loire Valley to New York’s Finger Lakes, from Spain to Sonoma – and from just about every grape.
It should come as no surprise then that they’ve gained a cult-like following among adventurous wine lovers for their fruit-forward profiles, gentle carbonation, easy-drinking style and sense of small-batch “discovery.” Here, Four Seasons’ own sommeliers tell us why they love pét-nat – and the other wines they reach for at Christmas, New Year’s and beyond.
Newly reopened after a major renovation by designer Martin Brudnizki, Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach is more than just a place to see and be seen – it’s a oenophile’s dream. Enter sommelier, Instagram influencer and wine podcaster Jessica Altieri, who’ll be serving up plenty of pét-nats at the Resort’s new restaurant, Florie’s, in partnership with Michelin-starred Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco. “Pét-nat is a product of the easiest method by which to get bubbles into a wine, and it was the first way sparkling wine was produced – hence the name méthode ancestrale,” says Altieri, who loves sourcing effervescent Mauzac pét-nats from Limoux and Gaillac in the south of France, as well as crisp whites from the Loire Valley. “I like to call it Champagne’s hip younger sibling; it’s ideal with creamy cheeses like chèvre or a scrumptious charcuterie board.”
I like to call it Champagne’s hip younger sibling; it’s ideal with creamy cheeses like chèvre or a scrumptious charcuterie board. – Jessica Altieri
As the winter holidays approach, Altieri also recommends a lesser-known wine: Gemischter Satz from Viennese winemaker Fritz Wieninger, whose 128 acres (52 hectares) are run by 10 members of his family. “Vienna is the only metropolis worldwide with extensive wine-growing areas and vineyards within the city boundaries,” she says. The Viennese wine tradition is as old as the city itself, with the first recorded vineyards dating back to 1132. “In 18th-century Vienna, under the reign of Maria Theresia and her son Josef II, wine growing was heavily encouraged, with huge wine cellars running underneath the inner city.”
The Gemischter Satz is “perfect for New Year’s Eve,” and usually shared in Austrian heurigen (wine taverns) at celebratory moments. “A pairing to complement the brightness of this wine would be some grilled pork sausage and traditional Austrian cold cuts,” Altieri says. “I will never forget how it refreshed my palate after each bite while sitting with Fritz Wieninger in the vineyard.”
Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
“Some of the best things in the wine world are also the simplest,” says Anthony Puccia, sommelier at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole. “That’s why I love pét-nat. The alcohol content is a little bit lower, and they always have a bit of nice sediment because they’re made using the oldest sparkling wine method in the world.” Puccia, a former Alaskan heli-ski guide and cellar master at Jackson Hole Winery, says the Resort will begin serving pét-nat soon. At the moment, he recommends the Sparkling Pinot Meunier from Donkey & Goat, made with grapes from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. The urban winery in Berkeley, California, is “at the forefront of the pét-nat movement,” he says.
Some of the best things in the wine world are also the simplest. – Anthony Puccia
Another of Puccia’s favourite wines for the holiday season is equally unexpected. “We just started sourcing Arnot-Roberts El Dorado Gamay Noir, and I could not be happier,” he says – high praise from someone who’s gone on tasting trips to France every year for more than a decade. “Arnot-Roberts makes some of the best cult wines in California, and this particular one is big, beautiful and juicy – such a refreshing pairing with holiday meals.” The next time you find yourself in Jackson Hole, try it with raclette cheese and alpine charcuterie – “It’s perfect with lighter game meats” – in the slope-side Ascent Lounge, where a wood-burning fire casts a warm glow.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole
“We usually feature at least one pét-nat, and currently we have Xarel-lo from Spain and Loureiro from Portugal,” says Jeremy Geyer, sommelier and General Manager of Café Boulud and d|bar at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. He recommends pairing that pét-nat with seafood, and one dish in particular: “At Café Boulud we feature a plateau de mer of poached white shrimp and oysters that all do very well with the high natural acidity, minerality and effervescence in these wines.”
At Café Boulud we feature a
For the festive season, Geyer covets one glass above all others – especially if roast turkey is on the menu: “When it comes to traditional holiday meals, it’s hard to stray from Beaujolais red, particularly the wines from the 10 crus. This year I recommend focusing on the 2015 and 2014 vintages, both of which produced spectacular reds with incredible balance and structure. These wines work very well with turkey and poultry, and have the right mouthfeel to pair with their usual accompaniments.”
Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
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