We hand the mic to Champagne's cooler little sis, Pét-Nat, for a primer on sparking wine

Oh and it’s in rhyme. "She straightens her beret, takes a breath, looks on steady. It’s her moment, she’s been waiting, move along or make ready.”
A delicious, if fraught, family portrait of sparkling wines. All illustrations by Grape Witch, Krysta Oben.

As colder weather approaches, you have some important decisions to make. Chief amongst them, sparkling wine. With any luck, over the coming months you will be enjoying some and it's important to know what is what.

Consider this a primer on bubblies from the ultimate insider, one of the family, the new-old kid on the block. Meet Pétillant Naturel or Pét-Nat, the raggedy newcomer that has secretly been here the whole time (laughing at us). Slightly sparkling, wildly fermented, confusingly under a crown cap, disconcertingly cloudy and undoubtedly delicious. The know-it-all bottle every sommelier Instagrams after work.  

Think of Pét-Nat as the Kombucha of wine with light alcohol, less globs and more bubbles... aka PERFECTION. When the hazy excellency arrives, you will look to your glass with surprise and delight. "What are you?", you'll ask, head tilted. If she could respond, this is what she would say about herself and her family of frenemies: Champagne, Prosecco and Cava. You see, she's quite the little gossip and gossip is our favourite. As her father, a 16th century monk whispered on his deathbed, "it's her world, we're just living in it". Without further ado, a glimpse into the world of sparkling wine,  via a totally normal educational poem...

Dearest reader, you're in for a treat

though being Champagne's little sister is no easy feat

like Solange or Noah Cyrus the deck's stacked against them

- "but wait!" (a crown-capped bottle cries),  "I came first!".

Pét-Nat? Is that you?

Well fine, then, you tell them.

She straightens her beret, takes a breath, looks on steady

It's her moment, she's been waiting, move along or make ready.

"In Limoux, France, I was made by mistake!

My dad was a monk, perhaps it was fate?

You see, I'm a wine, don't be fooled by my closure.

I was bottled too soon, I lost my composure!

They thought they knew me, a dry wine, my path sealed

Little did they know, I'm a rebel, a misfit,'just different', I squealed!

I still had sugar and yeast coursing through my lean body

I finished ferment in bottle, trapping naturally- produced C02 a bit oddly.

So what: I'm inconsistent, a bit cloudy, a mistake,

it's 2017, I'm on wine lists galore, just special, a snowflake!

Says my mom. Ugh I knowwww - but give me a break

sparkling sections? minuscule! my 'friends'? they're all snakes!

Don't get me started on my sister Champagne,

truly the topic is tiresome, left-brain

Pretentious and expensive in any event

She comes from two extremely precise, scientific ferments.

To a wine, fully made, they add sugar and yeast

an exacting endeavour, a bit dry, say the least.

It's delicious, oh yes, that cannot be questioned

though does it have soul, variation, adventure?

Let's just leave multi-dimensional nuance unmentioned.

'What about Prosecco?' You ask, eyebrows raised

She's okay, I guess, if you like basic babes.

I don't mean to be glib, all bubbles are allies

She's just gotten so much attention, so easy, liquid french fries.

Lemon, lime, acid. She's made in a tank!

Simple, big bubbles. Her IQ? Let's not rank.

'So how about Cava?' The question that follows.

My Spanish amiga that everyone swallows!

Cava is made in two ferments like my sister Champagne

Native grapes, yeasty sass, she must be from Spain!

We've had quite the adventures and I must recommend her

But for wild cloudy magic it's me! I'm uncensored.

So why not instead tell you more about me?!

I'm rustic and lively, handmade, gluten-free!

I was born in France, but am now made all over.

I'm joyous, sometimes sweet, a party, but stayover

Get to know me awhile, I'm not just for the park or your fête

pair me with tons of food, sweet or spicy or a tough tête a tête

I'm infectious, a conversation, I've been waiting for years

my time has finally come and to that I say cheers."


Nicole Campbell has a WSET diploma, runs a boutique natural wine agency at Lifford, as well as witchy wine parties under the name Grape Witches. She was utterly inspired by David Rakoff's "Love, Dishonour, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish"; the novel was Rakoff's last and was joyfully, painstakingly written in rhyming couplets. This ode to Pét-Nat, one of her favourite wine styles is dedicated to him and she hopes that you like it.

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