The oldest way to make sparkling wines is called méthode ancestrale in France. The method is mainly used in Gaillac, Limoux and Die. A more modern, or at least trendier, style of this method is called pétnat, or pétillant naturel. It is an easy-drinking bubbly wine, often from the Loire Valley, popular at “natural wine bars” around the world.
Montlouis-sur-Loire in Touraine has now raised the status of pétnat and included it in its appellation regulations. Officially, the wine is called Pétillant Originel AOC Montlouis sur Loire. “Naturel” is, for good reasons, a sensitive word to use in French wine circles. “Naturel” as opposed to “not naturel”? The grape is chenin blanc, the same as for still Montlouis.
A pétnat, and a méthode ancestral, is produced with only a single fermentation. The wine is bottled before the first fermentation is completely finished. The fermentation continues in the bottle. (A “méthode traditionelle, like e.g. in Champagne, uses two fermentations, the second with added yeast and sugar.) The end result is a wine with a lower pressure than a méthode traditionelle wine (3-3.5 bar instead of 6) and a slightly lower alcohol content.
A pétnat is usually completely dry, while a traditional méthode ancestrale often is a bit sweet and with even lower alcohol content. A Montlouis Pétillant Originel must be disgorged but in other regions it is fairly common for pétnats to leave the yeast deposit in the bottle and simply let the wine be a little cloudy.
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