“Champagnisation” is an unusual yet important word for us since it defines the transformation of a still wine into a sparkling wine in the Champagne region. This second step in the vinification work, combining ancestral savoir-faire with a unique Champagne method, is of crucial importance.
It all starts with the “tirage”. This term refers to all the operations involved in the bottling of the still wine obtained from the first cycle of vinification. In the Champagne region, a first fermentation is carried out in vats which transforms the grape juice into a still wine. After this, a second fermentation takes place in the bottle, referred to as the “prise de mousse“. It is this fermentation that gives rise to the gorgeous bubbles associated with the wines from the Champagne region. At DE SAINT-GALL, we like our champagnes to have fine, delicate bubbles.
To bring on this second fermentation, a “liqueur de tirage” containing a mixture of yeast and sugar is added to the still wine. Years ago, the process was not as well mastered as it is today. In the cellars, many bottles would often shatter under pressure. What’s more, at that time the bottles were made of blown glass whose small imperfections weakened the entire structure. Since the turn of the 20th century, these two processes have improved considerably thanks to advances in technology and today breakages caused by the secondary fermentation are very rare.
One of the most crucial and carefully controlled steps in the process is the preparation of the ferments. This consists of the multiplication of yeasts under the right conditions to ensure the transformation of sugars into alcohol and CO2 in the bottle. The carefully prepared “liqueur de tirage” is mixed with the wine and bottled using fully automated machinery.
Once filled, the bottle is temporarily sealed with what is known as a “bidule” (polyethylene cap) plus a capsule to ensure that it remains airtight. Depending on the size of the bottle, corks may be used to seal the wine despite the pressure.
The bottling process can last from a few days to a few months depending on the producer’s production volume. At UNION CHAMPAGNE, our bottling period runs from February to July each year.
Once the bottling is completed, the bottles are transferred to our cellars. Here the second fermentation process will start and last a few months. It will be followed by a long period of cellar ageing but that’s another story!
At CHAMPAGNE DE SAINT-GALL, our Non-Vintage Brut champagnes are aged for a minimum of 3 to 4 years and our vintage champagnes for 5 to 6 years. For example, our Le Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Millésime 2013 was bottled in 2014 and only released for sale this year.