Thursday, May 30, 2024

ADVERTISING: Advertorial — Different

by GEORGE BALLING/the dinner party
| March 1, 2023 1:00 AM

There have been some wines being requested and showing up with more frequency here in North Idaho that can only be described as different. Whether different is good for you and your taste in wine or not, of course is up to you. It simply comes down to, does it taste good to you? Are these different takes on wine worth it for what you pay for them? We will leave those questions to you to answer, and as wine professionals most times do, we will let you know what we think.

Pet Nat is an abbreviation of a French term, Petillant Naturel. The translation is naturally sparkling and is also known as Methode Ancestale. What it is, is a sparkling wine that is likely how “bubbly” first was produced, and now is being made in many wine regions around the world. The older and more true to original intent versions of it though come from Europe. While some are seizing on Pet Nat wines as being more natural that really is not part of what makes them what they are.

Most Champagnes and sparkling wines get their bubbly from secondary fermentation in the bottle that is created when additional yeast strains and sugar that can come in many forms including sugary alcohol are introduced into finished wine. The yeast consumes the additional sugar creating alcohol and carbon dioxide the source of the bubbles. Depending on the Champagne or sparkling wine the sweetness level of the finished product can range from bone dry in Brut and Extra Brut to quite sweet depending on when that secondary bottle fermentation stops.

The process for Pet Nat is quite different. With Pet Nat the wine is bottled when the primary fermentation is not yet complete producing the same bubbly from the carbon dioxide production. That is where the similarities to Champagne end. Because there is not secondary fermentation the resulting wine is lower in alcohol, usually well under 13%. The wines also many times are a bit cloudy, likely from the circulation of the dead yeast cells, and the bubbles are larger than typical Champagne and “sparklers.”

My take on the Pet Nat wines that I have tried is they lack the refinement and smoothness of really great Champagne. I do find the cloudy aspect of them off putting, I also tend to like very small refined bubbles in sparkling wines and I have yet to find a Pet Nat with small tight bubbles. The flavor profile on Pet Nat wines is also pretty rustic. Don’t get me wrong rustic earthy wines have their place and there are many that I enjoy, it is just not what I prefer when it comes to Champagne and sparkling wine. While we don’t yet stock any Pet Nat, we are happy to get them for you and we have ordered some for you.

Orange Wine descends primarily from Eastern Europe. After the fall of communism in the East Block nations we have started to see the wine industry there reignite and over time more wine has been exported to the US from these old-world appellations. Part of that increase in imports has resulted in Orange Wine starting to show up more and more. It started some years ago in New York and has gradually made its way west.

What is Orange Wine? It is a different take on any white wine. In most cases white wine is fermented off the skins and seeds, meaning no skin contact at all when the white grape juice is fermented and aged. In parts of Eastern Europe though white wines are fermented on the skins. By fermenting with skin contact a slight amount of color is extracted from the grape skins giving the wine a slight orange hue. It also changes the flavor profile quite a lot. The wines taste riper and richer from the skin contact and the acids normally detectable in white wines seem less prominent.

While the flavors, and textures are certainly new and different in Orange Wine than what we are used to I have found the wines to present a bit like they are oxidized or old enough to be past their prime. I suspect this is from the reduced acid levels and is not something I would seek out on a regular basis. We do not stock any Orange Wine at this point but we are happy to order it and have for some of you already.

With both Pet Nat and Orange Wine, they are certainly worth trying. They are a different take on wine for most of us, so it is worth it to add to your wine knowledge. Whether you like them or not, well like always let your palate be your guide.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of The Dinner Party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The Dinner Party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018.

George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop.

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