Pétillant Naturel, or Pet-Nat (let's drop the accented 'é' from now on coz its such a pain to type), literally means natural sparkling. They are the bubblies of the natural wine world, and they're a whole lot more casual (and fun!) than the celebratory Champagne.
Pet-Nats are made through Méthode Ancestrale, or the ancestral method (as if that wasn't obvious), which is how people first made sparkling wine in the 1500s. With this method, the wine is bottled prior to fully completing its first fermentation. As it continues to ferment in the bottle over several months, carbon dioxide is produced, trapped, and ultimately absorbed into the wine as bubbles. In contrast, Champagne is made by adding sugar and yeast to still wine in order to trigger a second fermentation to produce the bubbles.
Compared to Champagne, Pet-Nats generally have less bubbles and alcohol, and a tad bit sweeter - making them an easy and fun way to elevate meals that you would typically enjoy with your favorite soda. Pet-Nats generally taste better some time after opening - as letting the bubbles subside a bit gives the wine juice space to express itself more fully.
Pet-Nats origins lie in the south of France, which continues to produce some of the best of their kind - but winemakers all over the world are increasingly utilizing Méthode Ancestrale to create versions that creatively express their own unique sensibilities and terroir. Because Méthode Ancestrale is simpler to execute than Champagne, they're generally cheaper - which has gone a long way in democratizing the sparkling wine experience for those who thought that they could only be enjoyed during weddings, birthdays, and by ladies who brunch.
Check out our list here for yourself to see how fun Pet-Nats can be