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East End vineyards release Pétillant-naturel wines

Jamesport Vineyards released its first pétillant-naturel wines, which

Jamesport Vineyards released its first pétillant-naturel wines, which are lightly sparkling and unfiltered, on May 14. 2017. Credit: Newsday / Corin Hirsch

Mother’s Day was momentous at Jamesport Vineyards, not just because days of rain had finally ended or the tasting room was mobbed. It was also the day that the winery chose to release unusual gems, at least for the North Fork: Unlabeled bottles of the vineyard’s first-ever pétillant-naturel wines, in cloudy shades of coral, dusty pink, and pale yellow.

When poured, Jamesport’s pét-nats, as they’re called, froth so wildly that they tickle your nose — then quickly die down into tart, juicy, slightly effervescent wines.

Bottled soon after harvest, when the wines are still fermenting, pét-nats can range from sweet to bone-dry but are usually slightly fizzy, a bit funky and cost less than many sparkling wines. They are fun to drink — each bottle is a bit different — and uber-versatile with food; for winemakers, pét-nats are a fruit-driven early capture of the harvest, as well as a way to get wines to market faster.

Bridgehampton’s Channing Daughters was the first to begin making pét-nats, about two years ago, and the crew at Jamesport Vineyards had been thinking about turning some out for a while.

“It was a cool year, so this [2016] was the year to start playing,” said Jamesport Vineyards’ president Ronald B. Goerler Jr. Cool years make for grapes with higher acids, something sparkling wines need for their electric backbone. And while pét-nats might be trendy, Goerler noted, the process of making them — called méthode ancestrale — dates back to the 16th century. “It’s what I’ve always loved about winemaking — there is always something new but it’s also old.”

Last year, Jamesport winemaker Dean Babiar made 100 cases each of three pét-nats: A tart, lemony Albarino, a tea-colored Cabernet Franc laden with stone fruit flavors, and a dusty pink Syrah that almost drinks like a sour beer. Each costs $29.95. Though some drinkers react viscerally to the sediment, or spent lees, in each bottle, there are enough pét-nat devotees that these wines won’t be around long — if you’re curious, grab them while you can.

Jamesport Vineyards, 1216 Main Rd., Jamesport, 631- 722-5256, jamesportwines.com

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