Allez Les Bulles!

7/17/14 -

Inevitably, there comes a time in the summer when we find ourselves gazing longingly at our non-Champagne sparkling wine selection, possessed by an epic thirst only quenched by refreshing bubbles. As die-hard lovers of Champagne, it took a bit of a paradigm shift to bring us to reveling in méthode ancestrale or Pétillant Naturel (Pet-Nat) sparkling wines. (Well, some of us have always loved Pet-Nat; others are more grudgingly convinced.) Without delving too deeply into the intricacies of winemaking, the differences between the two types of wine are as follows: Champagne is – first and foremost – a region with its own distinct and impressive terroir, but Champagne also gives its name to a method of sparkling winemaking according to which a small amount of yeast and sugar is introduced into the bottle to create bubbles. Méthode Ancestrale sparkling wines, on the other hand, are bottled before the first fermentation is finished; their bubbles come from trapped carbonic gas, which is a byproduct of the fermentation process. Both styles have copious charms! There’s a certain precision and consistency to Champagne Method sparkling wines. Also the process is typically longer and slower, which aids in the development of refined and creamy bubbles. On the other hand (and this is certainly why Pet-Nat is popular amongst natural winemakers), with carbonic gas offering its preservative effect to the wine, Pet-Nats are generally made without added sulfur. And it seems to us that many producers of Pet-Nat have cleaned up their act over the past few years, resulting in an abundance of clean, natural fizz. Thorough investigation of the style (read: we’ve been drinking as much Pet-Nat as we can get our hands on) has revealed that Pet-Nats have attractions all their own: frothy, soft, almost beer-like bubbles, and an ease on the palate that works well for casual summer drinking.

I guess what we’re saying is that there’s never been a better time to do a little investigation of your own. Our sparkling wine shelf is overflowing with both Champagne method and méthode ancestrale wines, with none exceeding about $30. We’ll draw your attention to Belluard’s non-vintage Ayze from the Haut-Savoie (Champagne method), Puzelat-Bonhomme’s Vin Pétillant of Cabernet Franc (Pet-Nat), Andi Knauss’s brilliant, bone-dry Sekt (Champagne method), and the list goes on. And as always, if you’re in need of recommendations or you’d like to try a mixed case or a six-pack, don’t hesitate to ask. Santé! -Sophie    

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