In the Yonne Valley near the village of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, France, Bailly Lapierre is a producer of Crémant de Bourgogne, a white or rosé sparkling wine made predominantly from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.
As is the case with many European wineries and vineyards, Bailly Lapierre exudes history and tradition. Winemaking in this region can be traced back to the late Roman Empire, when vineyards first began to flourish here. The company’s day-to-day operations are 165 feet underground in an ancient quarry that supplied the stone for some of the greatest works in France’s architectural heritage: the Pantheon, Notre-Dame de Paris and Chartres Cathedral. The location was also used as a German airplane hangar during World War II and as a mushroom-cultivation center until 1970.
Inheritors of a long winegrowing tradition, the local men and women who founded Bailly Lapierre combined their winemaking efforts in 1972 to produce Crémant de Bourgogne. Since then, Bailly Lapierre has brought together 430 winegrowers, and more than 70 wine-growing families who devote themselves to the vines year-round.
The average annual production of Crémant de Bourgogne is nearly 3.5 million bottles (25,000 hectoliters) or roughly 290,000 cases. Additionally, a permanent stock of five million bottles is retained in the company’s underground cellar.
A Traditional Process
With subterranean galleries that extend more than 10 acres, the location of Bailly Lapierre’s winery serves the company well in its winemaking efforts because caves provide natural conditions ideal for the production of Crémants:
- A naturally cool temperature at a constant 12 C (54 F)
- A naturally high level of moisture (about 80 percent humidity at the heart of the cellars)
- Soft diffused light that helps preserve flavor and color
Inside the winery, the grapes are weighed and the quality of the berries assessed. The grapes are emptied into the designated hopper and channeled to the corresponding press. The presses, renovated in 2007, provide gentle processing.
“We have four presses with different capacities, between six and 12 metric tons,” said Mathieu Cerveau, cellarman for the winery. “We can press an average of 250 metric tons a day, with each press devoted to a single grape variety. Completing the pressing process in a gentle manner is important because the different juices need to be kept apart. The cuvée (the juice from the initial pressing) is run into separate tanks from the juice of subsequent pressings, or taille. It is also important that we are able to drain all of the juice from the piping system. This juice is the lifeblood of the wine.”
After the pressings take place, Bailly Lappiere makes its Crémants using the traditional method, the same method used for making Champagne. Known as “vinification,” it is a long process that demands rigor and precision.
While its Crémant de Bourgogne is produced in the traditional fashion, Bailly Lapierre prides itself on being a company of innovation. Within the last decade, it has overhauled its production facility, installing equipment that includes a variety of modern and automated machines. Not only does this equipment make the production process easier to complete, it does so in a more precise manner.
“Some of our newer equipment was custom-built specifically for us,” explained Cerveau. “We use stainless steel equipment, as well. We do this for a variety of reasons, but one reason is because stainless steel is easier to clean. In addition, all of the equipment that touches the wine must be compatible with food products because making wine needs to be a flawless and hygienic process.”
Pumps are used for a variety of applications during winemaking and are critical to the process. “Pumps are important pieces of equipment for us,” said Cerveau. “Because we use our pumps in a variety of locations, we usually have a few that are mounted on a mobile cart so we can easily move them around the winery. We use them in our pressing center, where it’s a 24/7 operation, as well as around the winery to fill tanks or transfer wine from one tank to another. In addition, we use a pump to fill all of our wine bottles. If our pumps go down, the operation stops.”
When selecting pumps, wine producers like Bailly Lapierre must choose a pumping technology that offers the following attributes: gentle product handling, volumetric consistency, ability to recover expensive products and ingredients, and low slippage. After evaluating pumping technologies, Bailly Lapierre chose to install eccentric disc pumps.