We have answers.
Q: What is Pet Nat?
A: Nope, it’s not for pets. It’s short for pétillant naturel, which is a newly-popular old-school bubbly. Pet Nat is wine that is bottled with a small amount of residual sugar (from the grapes) which means that fermentation continues even after the wine has been bottled. The remaining sugar is processed by naturally-occurring yeast cells, producing alcohol and CO2. CO2 is trapped in the bottle, yielding a bubbly end product! It’s usually made with organic or biodynamic grapes, no added sulfur, and is unfiltered and unfined. The unfiltered approach is what gives the cloudy look often accompanying Pet Nats and is why the flavors are so unique (and delicious). Read our blog for our in-depth explanation of Pet Nat.
Q: What does Surlie mean?
A: Surlie references a critical and our favorite part of making Pet Nat. 'Lie' is the French word for dead yeast cells (sexy, right?) and 'sur lie' means 'on the lees'. Lies, or lees (English), are the end product post-fermentation. Yeasts consume the sugars in grape juice, yielding alcohol, CO2, and heat. The majority of pet nat producers let their wines age or develop sur lie (on the lees) and do not disgorge, or remove, them from the bottle. Pet Nat's tasty, generous mouthfeel is largely attributed to this process and is in part why the wines are often hazy in appearance. It's also what makes them uniquely delicious! 😋
Q: Why Pet Nat?
A:We decided to focus on Pet Nat for a few reasons….
- 1- It’s relatively undiscovered: Although it is one of the oldest forms of making sparkling wine and is growing in popularity, the average wine drinker is still probably not familiar with Pet Nat. We want to help other people discover this lovable but lesser-known sparkling wine.
- 2- It’s hard to find! Pet Nat is generally produced in tiny quantities (rarely will you find production over 500 cases made per year) which is one of the reasons that it can be difficult to find the good stuff. It can also be hard to navigate - there is a lot of variation in style and flavor profile, which is also part of what makes it so interesting. We curate our collections based on extensive tasting (“research”) and set expectations on flavor profiles through approachable and fun tasting guides.
3- It’s made by passionate producers: Pet Nat producers are passionate folks who generally have been doing this for a long time - often across multiple generations. Many producers use only their own estate organic or biodynamic grapes and won’t employ corrective methods in vinification if Mother Nature deals them a bad hand. It’s not uncommon for these producers to have no dedicated marketing department or budget. One of the things we love most about Pet Nat is that it really isn’t a CPG product; it’s an agricultural product with an abundant “sense of place.”
Q: What's the difference between the Club and Collections?
A: Club: A subscription that ships 4 bottles quarterly, great for the person who doesn't have time or doesn't want to go through a selection process with every purchase. Club shipments may include some of our featured individual collections or exclusive members-only collections. It includes both easy-drinking introductory bottles as well as some eye-opening, unique gems, all rigorously evaluated and curated by us. When you subscribe to the club, you receive the current quarter's shipment and then will be billed every 3 months for subsequent quarters. Shipments generally follow the end of calendar year quarters (March, June, September, December). You can cancel at anytime!
Collections: Individual collections that ship out approximately once per week. We can accommodate some requests for expedited shipping outside of this scheduled cycle- contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have a time sensitive request!
Q: How do you select your wines?
A: TLDR: We put A LOT of bottles through a rigorous tasting process, remove the unreliable ones, and select the best. We add a combination of traditional and personal tasting notes to our product descriptions to help set expectations and de-risk the experience of trying something new.
And a personal note from Phoebe, our wine lead...
After 8 years in the wine industry, I was still a natural wine skeptic. Then, a few years ago, Pet Nat broke me down and made me fall in love with its variety of beautiful, crazy, surprising, weird expressions. However, I found that a large portion of the bottles I was drinking were chemically incorrect, significantly imbalanced, or just unpleasant to drink. At an average bottle price of $25-35, that’s an expensive failed experiment, especially if it happens multiple times a week. Many of my “serious” wine friends held a similar opinion about natural wines for the same reason as I did. Too inconsistent and too high-risk. That said, when they had a good bottle of Pet Nat it had a tendency to become one of their new favorite wines (and that’s saying something).
Pet Nat is an inconsistent product by nature. Its design means that no two bottles will be exactly the same. The imperfect bottles are usually few but sometimes many. Some wineries make Pet Nat the focal point of their production while others make it as a tiny side-project. In either case, it’s a difficult and work-intensive product to make. There is tremendous room for error, especially if precise care is not taken in both the vineyard and the cellar. Hence why there are so many "unpleasant" bottles out there.
There is an undeniable opportunity for this wine to become one of everyone’s favorites. We figured that by tasting as many Pet Nats as we could get our hands on we could remove the risk for consumers and offer folks a reliable set of some of the best.
Q: How does shipping work?
A: First a little shipping humor...
See above for details on our club shipment cadence. We fulfill orders approximately once per week. Carrier details and timeline estimates for states we ship to are below:
- * California: GLS, 1-2 days from fulfillment
- * DC: UPS or FedEx Ground, ~5 days from fulfillment
- * Florida: UPS or FedEx Ground, ~5 days from fulfillment
Please note adult signature is required for all deliveries.
Q: Can I send someone a Surlie Collections gift?
A: Yes! As long as they’re located in a state we can ship to (currently CA, DC, FL). We also offer an option to add a custom gift message at checkout.
Q: How should I store the bottles?
A: Like any other wine: In a cool, dark place, ideally on its side, until you are ready to drink it (then in the fridge!). Since most bottles are crown cap (like a bottle of beer), they are also fine in the fridge for a few weeks. It also isn’t AS essential to keep them on their side but it’s ideal for lees contact. Bottles with a cork are more susceptible to drying out or exposure to fridge germs and unclean air.
Q: What glassware should I use?
A: The day of the flute is over. Well, unless you’re drinking old, vintage Champagne, which Pet Nat is not. A flute emphasizes CO2 so in the rare event of a somewhat-flat Pet Nat, this could be a good option when you want to highlight what effervescence remains. In general, opt for a classic white wine glass when drinking Pet Nat which is a) most accessible and b) allows for ideal balance between CO2 and aroma. The ‘bowl’ of a glass holds aromas and a flute does not have a bowl! Research tells us that 80% of what we taste comes from or is influenced by smell, hence why a bowl is important, even when drinking bubbles.
When it comes to using glassware with stems or without, either one is fine. With a stemless glass, the heat from your hand has a greater effect on the temperature of the wine, while using a glass with a stem provides more distance between your hand and the wine inside the glass. Fortunately, Pet Nat is not so volatile once it’s poured that an “imperfect” temperature will ruin its taste. Speaking of temperature…
Q: At what temperature should I drink Pet Nat?
A: As with all wines, temperature distinctly affects the taste and perceived flavors of Pet Nat. Because Pet Nat is typically a fuller-bodied sparkling vs. champagne or prosecco, it’s more forgiving when consumed at higher (warmer) temperatures. Still white wines are usually served between 45-55’F, while champagnes and other sparkling are served between 47-50’F. Depending on the wine and your personal preferences, anywhere in the 45-55’F range is a-ok. As you drink more Pet Nats, pay attention to what kind of temperature you prefer on your wine and what effect your ambient temperature has on it. Most refrigerators in the US are programmed at 40’ or just below, so the natural warming that your wine will experience once removed from the fridge will improve your experience. While the fridge is a fine place to chill your bottle for the short-term (7-10 days), I don’t recommend using your fridge as long-term storage.
Q: Why the different corks / crown closures on the bottles?
A: There’s no one-size-fits-all response here. There are a few main reasons:
- Pet Nat is not designed to age, it is designed to be consumed in the short-term so no cork is necessary to allow oxygen flow
-The majority of Pet Nat is not disgorged so the crown cap never needs to come off - adding an extra step to implement a cork closure is unnecessary so usually skipped. This became the norm
- Practicality and cost-saving! Corks are expensive and most Pet Nat producers are very small, working on thin margins
Q: Why does the level of carbonation vary so greatly?
A: Science! Nature! And winemakers, oh my! The Ancestral Method used to make Pet Nat means that the extended or secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle in which the wine will be sold. In doing so, the winemakers forfeit a level of control on what the exact finished product will taste like, including and especially the CO2. Typically this process would occur in a tank whose finished contents would then be pumped into bottles when secondary fermentation (the process during which bubbles form) is complete or in a bottle which would then be disgorged and topped off with a carefully-measured amount of wine engineered to yield a particular alcohol level, sugar level, and CO2 level. Between different preferences among winemakers and this reduced control during the final stages of fermentation, carbonation varies. The range of styles across the Pet Nat category is one of our favorite things about it.
Q: Why are some bottles vintage-specific (eg 2019) and some non-vintage (aka NV)?
A: The ‘traditional method’ for making Champagne typically involves blending wine from multiple vintages in order to make a NV product. Officially this method is known as Solera, which is also used in making sherry, port, and whisky. The primary reasons and benefits for this are:
1- Blending different vintages provides more flexibility for the winemaker to work with difficult vintages and wines that contribute different characteristics
2- The method allows winemakers to produce a consistent product every year
Making wine of any kind is a high-risk endeavor- one that puts winemakers at the mercy of Mother Nature. Severe storms and devastating fires are not uncommon and can mean the loss of an entire crop in some cases. In less extreme cases, the resulting wine may be vastly different from a previous vintage which creates challenges in the distribution market. Advertising and marketing mean that consumers have come to expect a relatively consistent product. The best way for winemakers to provide this is by blending wines that each contribute something different.
Any other questions? Contact us!