Pet Nat

WINE & FOOD KILLERS: L’Austral Jolie Brise Blanc 2017 and Strawberries & Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper

This dessert had two inspirations. One was Instagram – specifically, a photo taken at Paris restaurant Cheval d’Or, which showed a scattering of strawberries on a stoneware plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper. It sounds outlandish, but it actually makes sense that Sichuan pepper works with the fruit; strawberries and black pepper are a tried-and-true combination, and Sichuan peppercorns, both tinglingly electric and fruity in flavour, add just that little extra kick.

The other inspiration was my all-time favourite, desert-island dessert, which I had at London’s P Franco a few years back. It was just a pistachio ice cream, but somehow better than every other pistachio ice cream that has ever came before it. It was also drizzled in fine olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

As you have likely gleaned by now, I prefer my desserts with a savoury edge – enough to counterbalance the sweetness and prevent them from being cloying. This dish, with its olive oil and pepper, plus meringue and strawberry and gelato, is the ideal blend of both.

You could very well pair this dessert with a wine with some residual sweetness – in fact, that might be the more popular choice. Me, I quite like this bone-dry pet nat alongside. It has that classic Chenin Blanc nose – mingled notes of pear and apple, honey and lemon – which conjures whispers of sweetness, though on the palate it’s all fizz and zesty acidity. I think this dessert is just savoury enough to support it. Like the pleasingly tart strawberries, this bubbly adds its own refreshing, contrasting piquancy.

Strawberries and Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper Meringue
Adapted from Delicious
Serves 2

For the meringue:
½ lemon
Three large eggs, room temperature
175g (6oz) caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla-bean paste (or vanilla extract)

For the dessert:
½ tub pistachio gelato (available at specialist retailers and good supermarkets)
200g (7oz) strawberries of various sizes (large ones hulled and halved)
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (the best quality you can get)
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (or black pepper)

1. First, make the meringue. Preheat your oven to 120° Celsius. Ensure your large mixing bowl and electric whisk are completely clean (any traces of grease or fat will prevent the meringue from properly forming). Wipe both the bowl and beaters with a lemon half; the acid helps the meringue form and stabilise.

2. Crack the eggs and separate the whites and the yolks (discard the yolks, or save for another project). Add the whites to the bowl, ensuring there are no traces of yolk or shell. Beat on high speed, using your electric whisk, until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat well in between. Beat for a total of 5-6 minutes, or until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat until just incorporated.

3. Dollop the meringue on a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Using a spatula, spread the meringue into a thin, even layer; it should be no more than half an inch thick.

4. Bake the meringue for approximately 1 ¼ hours, or until it is completely set and no longer tacky, but has not darkened in colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray completely. Once cool, break into jagged, misshapen pieces (you will likely have extra meringue left over; store it in an airtight container and enjoy as a bonus dessert).

5. Arrange the strawberries between two plates or bowls. Add several small scoops of gelato to each serving. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle the berries with the Sichuan pepper. Add several meringue pieces per plate. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound, wine buff and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Aperitivo Snacks and Cloudwater x Evil Twin Pet Nat Slushie

More and more, the idea that beer and wine are two distinct categories of beverage is being challenged. If the growing number of vinous beers – like Cloudwater x Evil Twin’s Pet Nat Slushie – is any indication, we’ll soon be awash in wine-inspired beers, hopped wines, and other experimental hybrids.

A quick primer: Pet Nat – an abbreviation for pétillant naturel, or ‘naturally sparkling’ – is bubbly wine, humbly made. Unlike Champagne or Cava, it only undergoes a single fermentation, and it’s bottled while that fermentation is still underway (a process known as the méthode ancestrale, if you want to get fancy). It can be risky; worst case, if things don’t go according to plan, you might end up with a flat bottle.

But when all goes well, Pet Nat emerges delicately carbonated, relatively low in alcohol, lightly hazy, and – depending on the grapes you use – typically tastes young and bright and fruit-forward and fun.

All that said: this is a beer, not a Pet Nat, though it calls itself a Pet Nat Slushie. A collaboration between Cloudwater and Evil Twin made for the former’s forthcoming Friends & Family & Beer Festival, the beer is a tart and fruity kettle sour (with luscious passion fruit notes), married with a dry brut IPA fermented with Champagne yeast. It may share little in terms of ingredients or process with true Pét Nat, but what it does share is the same spirit of playfulness and gluggability (or glou-glou, as the French might say).

I recently visited Venice for the first time, and left enamoured with the city’s cicchetti culture: there are few greater pleasures than wandering from bar to bàcaro, nibbling on crostini as you go, always with a glass in hand. With that inspiration in mind, I’ve pulled together recipes for three quick aperitivo snacks you could pair with this Pet Nat Slushie (or any Pet Nat, really). You can make any or all of them, depending on the occasion, with bowls of spiced almonds or olives to go alongside. It’s snack hour, baby – and these simple, fresh, and riffable recipes are perfect with a side of bubbles.

Chickpea and Tomato Salad
200g (7oz) cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ tablespoon balsamic glaze
Fine sea salt
1 small red onion
1 400g (14oz) can chickpeas
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large handful flat-leaf parsley
1 large handful mint
4 tablespoons (1/4 US cup) capers
235ml (1 US cup) vegetable oil (optional; see step 4)
Juice of 1 lime 100g (3.5 oz) soft goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 160° Celsius (320° Fahrenheit). Meanwhile, halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange on a foil-covered baking sheet. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the balsamic glaze, and season with a pinch of sea salt. Roast for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened and jammy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

2. Finely dice the onion and transfer to a small bowl. Top up with cold water and leave to soak for 10-20 minutes; this helps remove the onion’s bite.

3. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the chickpeas and pat to dry. Transfer to a large bowl, alongside the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle over the caraway seeds and a large pinch of salt, plus a good grind of black pepper. Roughly chop the parsley and mint and add to the bowl. Toss to evenly mix.

4. Drain the capers and pat to dry. You can either add them to the salad as is, or fry them for some added crunch. If you plan to fry them, add the vegetable oil to a medium frying pan and place over high heat. Leave for several minutes until the oil is very hot, and a test caper starts sizzling rapidly as soon as it hits the oil. Add the remaining capers and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they’re darkened and crispy; some may ‘blossom’. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and leave to cool.

5. Just before serving, drain the onion pieces and transfer to the salad. Squeeze over the lime juice and toss to coat. Crumble over the goat cheese. Garnish with the capers.

Artichoke Crostini
1 small (half-sized) baguette
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
Approximately 8 tablespoons (1/2 US cup) ricotta
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful mint leaves
Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved

1. Turn the grill section of your oven to high. Using a serrated knife, slice the baguette into 1-inch pieces (save the end pieces for a snack); you want to end up with roughly 8 pieces. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle over the olive oil. Place under the grill for 3-6 minutes, or until golden-brown but not burned.

2. Remove from the grill. While the bread is still hot, grate a garlic clove lightly on each piece.

3. Once the bread has cooled, dollop roughly 1 tablespoon of ricotta on each slice and spread to the edges. Top each piece with a marinated artichoke heart, and season with the red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper), salt, and pepper to taste.

4. Finely chop the mint leaves and sprinkle on top of the crostini. Top with the shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Gorgonzola
8 large figs
100g (3.5oz) mild, soft blue cheese (preferably Gorgonzola Dolce)
8 slices prosciutto or Parma ham
Olive oil

1. Rinse and dry the figs. Using a serrated knife, slice upwards from the base of each fig so each has a deep cut but is still attached at the stem.

2. Spoon a small amount of Gorgonzola into each fig. Wrap with a single piece of prosciutto or Parma ham, and secure with a toothpick.

3. Turn your oven’s grill to its highest setting. Transfer the figs to a foil-lined baking sheet and place under the grill. Cook for 2-4 minutes, turning halfway, or until the ham is darkened and the cheese is starting to melt.

4. Remove from the oven and drizzle over a scant amount of olive oil. Serve while still warm.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is published by Dog’n’Bone Books this month (March 2019). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Natural Wine Killers: 2Naturkinder Bacchus Pet Nat 2017

Wine text books are littered with French terms which somehow have avoided translation, forming an internationally understood vocabulary among wine geeks. From household names like brut or demi-sec to my personal favourite, millerandage (Google it). None of these are quite as en vogue as pétillant naturel.

Pétillant in French simply means lightly sparkling. At some point in recent history, pétillant naturel received a Sam Cam-style truncation to make it more media-friendly, morphing into Pet Nat. It’s a term which is especially popular in the natural wine hotbed that is the Loire, but has spread much further afield (this one coming from the undervalued German wine region of Franken).

Truth be told, there is nothing modern about the Pet Nat. Winemakers though the ages have discovered, sometimes to their dismay, that if you leave a bit of residual sugar in the bottle, the wine may start refermenting and go fizzy. The first sparkling wines were of course made this way. Long before Dom Perignon got hold of a pupitre, the winemakers of Limoux, down in the Pyrenees, were making methode ancestrale – a sparkling wine where sugar is left in the bottle to referment, and create a lightly fizzy, cloudy wine.

Locals of Limoux claim to have been making sparkling wines this way since the 1500s, so like many natural wines, Pet Nat really is taking it back to the old school. Which brings us to 2NaturKinder’s Bacchus Pet Nat 2017. It’s made by Melanie Drese and Michael Völker, two Germans who developed a passion for natural wines in London (sounds familiar) and moved back home to create a revolution in Michael’s parents’ winery. The winery is now certified organic, and the wines are made with minimal intervention – nothing is added or taken away.

This Pet Nat is made by leaving about 15g/l residual sugar in the wine, sealing it to re-ferment and retain the fizz, then roughly disgorging so most of the dead yeasts are removed, but finishing cloudy. According to Mel and Mike, this vintage is a bit more colourful than previous, but benefits from a more intense perlage (no more French wine terms, I promise).

It has a hazy lemon colour and looks and smells a bit like a natural lemonade, with aromas of saucisson, ginger and gooseberry (Bacchus is an aromatic grape, not commonly used in sparkling wines). It’s gently frothy, and has a long, Bramley apple finish. And at only 11% ABV, it goes down dangerously easily.

Claire Bullen’s food pairing: Pair with lemon orzo with prawns and fresh herbs or scallop, grapefruit, and avocado ceviche

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder. This wine featured in our November Natural Wine Killers box. To bet on board, head here.