Pet Nat, short for Pétillant Naturel, is a sparkling wine made by bottling still fermenting juice allowing it to finish its fermentation in bottle.
Unlike Champagne or other sparkling wines there isn't a second fermentation started by adding sugar and yeast. It is a simpler process and is made to be light and refreshing. It is made to be drunk young as an aperitif or on a picnic and for me it takes the place of a cider or light beer - goes with the same kinds of foods. When introducing people to it in the shop I sometimes refer to it as a grape cider though of course it is fully a wine.
I recently made a discovery as I found some forgotten bottles of Casal Ventozela Pet Nat from Portugal in my wine rack this winter. I was dubious about if it would still be drinkable but opened it anyway over a meal of spicy chinese stir fry….it was fabulous. I would usually go for an off-dry aromatic wine with spicy asian food like a Vouvray or something highly aromatic like a Gewurztraminer so I was surprised that something so light and in my mind a “simple sunny day fizz” worked at all. While still fruity it had continued to develop flavours from the must and yeast residue in the bottom of the bottle. Unlike with a Champagne where the added yeast on the second fermentation gives a bready, tasty flavour this has developed more aromatics and umami quality that was similar to what you get in an orange wine. It went perfectly with the Chinese, so the next evening I had another bottle with some Korean food!
I don't know if you have joined the Korean trend or been curious enough to try it? My partner is Korean and we eat Korean dishes often, but we have struggled to find a good wine pairing, so we generally tend to resort to light beer and craft ale. We almost always have beer or soju if we are drinking that night and thought of wine and the deep fermented flavours you get with food such as Kimchi just didn't match up. Pet Nat proved us wrong! With the right level of aromatics and acidity to go with even the strongest flavours such as kimchi or the fish sauce in Thai styles of food - it’s the perfect match.
I'm not saying that you should age Pet Nat, definitely not! This little food and wine pairing discovery we've made just proves that we all need to continue to experiment with all styles of wine to find the right marriage of flavours.