Tirage: a frantic, theatrical and intense period in any sparkling wine producer's year.
To explain what tirage is, we need to start at the beginning: harvest. After we have picked and pressed the fruit, the juice for our sparkling wine is fermented in tank to create a still base wine.
During tirage (which usually takes place around June), the wine is bottled, and a mixture of wine, sugar and yeast is added to each bottle to create the chemical reaction which traps carbon dioxide in the bottle to produce the fizz. Unlike tank fermented sparkling wines, traditional method's ubiquitous bubbles are always made this way.
Placed under crown cap, the bottles are then laid down for anything from 18 months to ten years. And it's not only the fizz which develops now - the yeast cells impart their magical biscuity, nutty flavours to the wine, too.
At the last stage (which won't happen to these bottles for about three years), the lees are removed, dosage (a solution of sugar and wine) is added and the crown cap is replaced with a cork.
Finally, we leave for 3-6 months under cork before release to allow the dosage to integrate fully.