Published in 2021, You Had Me at Pét-Nat is a journey of self-discovery, where love and friendship, loss and loneliness can be strengthened (or eased) with a crisp, vibrant glass of natural wine, perhaps with a touch of fizz, such as a pétillant naturel or pét-nat, for short.
Offering an eloquent, intelligent and joyful prologue to the world of natural wine, Rachel Signer comes across as fiercely independent; a carefree explorer, inviting you to join her as she trailblazes across a wine-inspired world, with a cool collective of pioneering winemakers for company.
The book occasionally reads as a love letter to natural wine however this is not a story merely seen through rosé-tinted natural wine glasses. This is a story of the highs and lows of first and last loves, and how finding true happiness is all about risk and compromise.
Signer’s intimate memoir takes us from New York to Australia by way of Europe and Asia, showcasing each at its sensorial best. From the slick wine scene of New York and natural wine bars of Paris, London and Edinburgh; to Georgia with its old-as-time winemaking traditions; and on to the rolling vineyards of the Barossa in South Australia, Signer’s colourful descriptions of the places and characters she meets along the way will have you packing your bags and reaching for your passport to follow in her footsteps.
There is a gentle intent in the narrative’s eagerness to introduce you to natural wine. A concept that is not new, even if initially considered a hipster movement, some of the best chateaux and wineries across the world are now au naturel. At about page 20 this is a movement you want to be part of. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a “…world without definitions”, where craftsmen and women work hand in hand with nature, in jeans and t-shirts, their bare feet red from the juice of their toil; faces lined from the wins and losses that comes from making the most unpredictable wine on the planet?
The natural wine movement’s hero and possibly the purest of sparkling wines, pét-nat, is a constant thread within Signer’s colourfully unflinching narrative: “A chilled, cloudy, low alcohol bottle of pét-nat is the bad boy in a leather jacket, while a bottle of champagne is more like a woman in a Chanel suit with pearls…. pét-nat is the natural wine movement’s darling because it refuses to be dressed up!”
Signer’s descriptions of pét-nat, it’s lack of additives or preservatives; its fresh zing of fruit, peach and clementine, how magic and alive it feels with its racing acidity and cloudy effervescence all creates anticipation and excitement to seek this fizz out for yourself.
You Had Me at Pét-Nat is a tale about revolutionaries, risk takers, an ode to the pioneers of modern wine making. Signer opens a door to a world of loveable eccentrics who explore cities on two wheels, dine with locals in off-the-beat cafés and drink local brews made only as nature intended. Colourful, creative people you’d want to invite to your next dinner party…. and not just because they’d bring the wine.