Chardonnay aging

Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum

Help Support Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum:

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
Good morning. My plan is to make a full bodied, oaked, buttery Chardonnay this year. I am going to ferment with oak and put it through MLF. While reading up on making full bodied Chardonnay I read that the wine should be left on the gross lees and stirred everyday for a few weeks, one day a week and so on. I’ve never heard of aging on the gross lees and assumed batonnage was always done on the fine lees. Can anyone give any insight?
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
AFAIK, battonage and sur lie are done with fine lees.

I was originally taught to get the wine off the gross lees ASAP. However, extended maceration (EM) has some popularity, where the wine is aged on the pomace (which includes gross lees) for up to 8 weeks. This leaves me scratching my head, although techniques for red wines do not necessarily apply to whites. For that reason, I would be hesitant to keep the gross lees in a Chardonnay.

Gross lees vs fine lees is a difficult dividing line to gauge. There is a fair amount of conflicting information, and some techniques for determining the difference (such as gauging particle size in the 100μμm [micrometers] range) are not readily available to home winemakers.

Numerous sources agree that most of the gross lees drop within 24 to 72 hours after the end of fermentation. If it were me, I'd rack 2 to 3 days after I thought fermentation was done, and practice battonage at that point. I'm doing this with reds in barrel and have no problems so far (9 months in).
 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
AFAIK, battonage and sur lie are done with fine lees.

I was originally taught to get the wine off the gross lees ASAP. However, extended maceration (EM) has some popularity, where the wine is aged on the pomace (which includes gross lees) for up to 8 weeks. This leaves me scratching my head, although techniques for red wines do not necessarily apply to whites. For that reason, I would be hesitant to keep the gross lees in a Chardonnay.

Gross lees vs fine lees is a difficult dividing line to gauge. There is a fair amount of conflicting information, and some techniques for determining the difference (such as gauging particle size in the 100μμm [micrometers] range) are not readily available to home winemakers.

Numerous sources agree that most of the gross lees drop within 24 to 72 hours after the end of fermentation. If it were me, I'd rack 2 to 3 days after I thought fermentation was done, and practice battonage at that point. I'm doing this with reds in barrel and have no problems so far (9 months in).
That’s what I have always known as well but this technique was brought up in a book written by Daniel Pambianchi (Modern Home Winemaking). Who is kind of a winemaking legend.

Inclined to give it a try. Maybe split the batch into two and do one on fine and the other on gross lees.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Inclined to give it a try. Maybe split the batch into two and do one on fine and the other on gross lees.
That sounds like a good experiment.

Again, if it were me, I'd stir the wine to suspend the solids at the point fermentation is done, then divide the batch. Batch #G (gross lees) starts battonage at that point. Batch #F (fine lees) gets racked after 3 days, then battonage starts. This way each batch gets its fair share of the lees.

One thing I noted in watching battonage and sur lie videos, is the wine had a REALLY thick layer of lees. It took a bit before I realized I'm seeing 200 to 300 gallon tanks, which have a proportional amount of lees compared to a 6 gallon carboy.
 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
That sounds like a good experiment.

Again, if it were me, I'd stir the wine to suspend the solids at the point fermentation is done, then divide the batch. Batch #G (gross lees) starts battonage at that point. Batch #F (fine lees) gets racked after 3 days, then battonage starts. This way each batch gets its fair share of the lees.

One thing I noted in watching battonage and sur lie videos, is the wine had a REALLY thick layer of lees. It took a bit before I realized I'm seeing 200 to 300 gallon tanks, which have a proportional amount of lees compared to a 6 gallon carboy.
I'm going to give it a try. That is a good point. I was originally going to split the batch prior to fermentation but if they ferment as one big batch, it adds an extra control to the experiment. I will keep you updated on how it turns out.
 

NorCal

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
Joined
Apr 18, 2014
Messages
3,765
Reaction score
5,191
Location
Sierra Foothills, Nor Cal
I'm doing a barrel fermented Chardonnay this year, with goals similar to yours. Below is my game plan.

0. Target of: 22-23 brix, 3.2-3.4 pH Chardonnay juice
1. Let the fresh Chard juice barrel settle 12-24 hrs, then rack from solids.
2. Fill the barrel with 40-45 gallons of juice, rest in Spiedel
3. Inoculate with TR-313 yeast. (I want to use a non-H2S yeast, due to extra H2S risk
4. Ferment/store in 65-69 degree wine box. stirring daily
5. Once complete fermentation, rack off gross lees (or leave the gross lees if no off smells?)
6. Fill the barrel with wine from the Spiedel, add Beta mlf, stirring every 2-3 days
7. Rack and add SO2 immediately following the completion of MLF
8. Taste and maybe add just a touch of oak
9. Plan on rolling the barrel out in the barn during cold Dec-Jan months to cold crash
10. Rack, degass if needed, filter if needed, bottle in Jan/Feb
 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
I'm doing a barrel fermented Chardonnay this year, with goals similar to yours. Below is my game plan.

0. Target of: 22-23 brix, 3.2-3.4 pH Chardonnay juice
1. Let the fresh Chard juice barrel settle 12-24 hrs, then rack from solids.
2. Fill the barrel with 40-45 gallons of juice, rest in Spiedel
3. Inoculate with TR-313 yeast. (I want to use a non-H2S yeast, due to extra H2S risk
4. Ferment/store in 65-69 degree wine box. stirring daily
5. Once complete fermentation, rack off gross lees (or leave the gross lees if no off smells?)
6. Fill the barrel with wine from the Spiedel, add Beta mlf, stirring every 2-3 days
7. Rack and add SO2 immediately following the completion of MLF
8. Taste and maybe add just a touch of oak
9. Plan on rolling the barrel out in the barn during cold Dec-Jan months to cold crash
10. Rack, degass if needed, filter if needed, bottle in Jan/Feb
Sounds very similar to what I am doing. I was going back and forth, whether I should just get a “fresh” juice pail or get grapes. Ultimately I pre ordered the Lanza Chardonnay grapes. I am (so far) getting 3 lugs. Expecting around 7 gallons pressed. Original goal was (with gross lees in mind):
Crush, destem and press. Allow juice to settle for 24 to 48 hours. Strain into carboys for fermentation. Add WineStix to carboy to mimic barrel fermentation and aging. (Can’t afford a barrel at the moment)
Ferment with CY3079 (I have been told that H2S production is manageable with nutrients and stirring)
Add MBR-31 MLB after fermentation is complete. Stirring as needed. Age minimum of 6 months on lees (batonnage of course), transfer onto new oak WineStix if needed and bulk age for some time.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Add WineStix to carboy to mimic barrel fermentation and aging. (Can’t afford a barrel at the moment)
Due to the relatively quick duration of fermentation, I suggest using shredded oak instead of a solid oak product. I've used the following product for red wine, which recommends 1 to 1.5 cups for a 6 gallon batch for white wine.

 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
Due to the relatively quick duration of fermentation, I suggest using shredded oak instead of a solid oak product. I've used the following product for red wine, which recommends 1 to 1.5 cups for a 6 gallon batch for white wine.

The reason I was/am going to use a solid piece is because I was going to age on the gross lees. I wouldn’t have to transfer off the lees until much later in the process. I didn’t want it on chips that long.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
The reason I was/am going to use a solid piece is because I was going to age on the gross lees. I wouldn’t have to transfer off the lees until much later in the process. I didn’t want it on chips that long.
Gotcha. When I use shredded oak for reds, it gets discarded with the pomace.

This leads into fermentation vs aging oak. 🤣

My research in this area has been for reds, where the oak provides "sacrificial tannins" which drop instead of the natural grape tannins. However, I haven't looked into the same for whites, so I don't know (yet, anyway!) how the concept applies to whites, or if it does.

If there is an application, then using shredded oak and discarding it at the first racking and switching to solid oak makes sense. If there isn't an application, then what you're planning makes sense.

This gives me something new to research. Wine research is a never ending topic!:)


EDIT: I posted too quickly. A 5 minute research turned up a couple of interesting points.

From an article on WineMakerMag:

For white wines, fermentation tannins do a really good job of refining structure, preventing hazes, and assisting in the release and stabilization of aromatic compounds.​

From The Beverage People (commercial product sales), this regards the product FT Blanc Soft:

FT Blanc Soft - White and Rosé Wine Fermentation Tannin
Derived from oak gall nuts. Used in White and Rosé wines to:​
  • Help protect against oxidation
  • Enhance texture and improve mouth feel of finished wine
I found a couple other references that agree with the above, so at first blush it appears that fermentation oak in white wine produces a different result than in reds, but equally valuable.

Based upon research and experience with reds, you may want to consider a product with more surface area to get better exposure during fermentation. For reds the wine/oak interaction during fermentation is distinctly different from aging, and it appears it is for whites as well.

YMMV
 
Last edited:

Raptor99

Fruit Wine Alchemist
Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2020
Messages
547
Reaction score
832
Location
Oregon
For many of my wines, I add oak powder to the primary to provide sacrificial tannins. Sometimes I add oak chips during aging. The oak added in primary vs. during aging has a different function and has a different influence on the flavor. But if you are doing EM then the oak added in the beginning might serve both functions.
 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
Gotcha. When I use shredded oak for reds, it gets discarded with the pomace.

This leads into fermentation vs aging oak. 🤣

My research in this area has been for reds, where the oak provides "sacrificial tannins" which drop instead of the natural grape tannins. However, I haven't looked into the same for whites, so I don't know (yet, anyway!) how the concept applies to whites, or if it does.

If there is an application, then using shredded oak and discarding it at the first racking and switching to solid oak makes sense. If there isn't an application, then what you're planning makes sense.

This gives me something new to research. Wine research is a never ending topic!:)


EDIT: I posted too quickly. A 5 minute research turned up a couple of interesting points.

From an article on WineMakerMag:

For white wines, fermentation tannins do a really good job of refining structure, preventing hazes, and assisting in the release and stabilization of aromatic compounds.​

From The Beverage People (commercial product sales), this regards the product FT Blanc Soft:

FT Blanc Soft - White and Rosé Wine Fermentation Tannin
Derived from oak gall nuts. Used in White and Rosé wines to:​
  • Help protect against oxidation
  • Enhance texture and improve mouth feel of finished wine
I found a couple other references that agree with the above, so at first blush it appears that fermentation oak in white wine produces a different result than in reds, but equally valuable.

Based upon research and experience with reds, you may want to consider a product with more surface area to get better exposure during fermentation. For reds the wine/oak interaction during fermentation is distinctly different from aging, and it appears it is for whites as well.

YMMV
I have looked into other products. It is kind of minimal due to contact area. I do have oak cubes as well but I think I might just stick with the WineStix. It may not mimic the effects of what barrel fermentation contributes. I’m afraid of trying to fight my way to get cubes or chips out of a carboy. Since I’m fermenting in a carboy and leaving it there, instead of a bucket, it would pose to be a pain. If I were to ferment, rack off the gross lees and age on the fine lees, I would definitely use something like chips. Hard to explain my thought process.
 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
For many of my wines, I add oak powder to the primary to provide sacrificial tannins. Sometimes I add oak chips during aging. The oak added in primary vs. during aging has a different function and has a different influence on the flavor. But if you are doing EM then the oak added in the beginning might serve both functions.
The plan is to ferment in a carboy and age on the gross lees. Follow a strict Batonnage routine. As long as there isn’t any reductive issues, I’m going to try to keep it there for over 6 months, possibly a year.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Since I’m fermenting in a carboy and leaving it there, instead of a bucket, it would pose to be a pain.
IME, fermenting in a closed container is counter-productive. Yeast needs O2 for reproduction, and daily stirring in an open container provides that. It's also much easier to deal with the byproducts of fermentation, which include pomace and oak.
 

CoastalEmpireWine

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
239
Reaction score
16
IME, fermenting in a closed container is counter-productive. Yeast needs O2 for reproduction, and daily stirring in an open container provides that. It's also much easier to deal with the byproducts of fermentation, which include pomace and oak.
I agree. It can be challenging. It will be stirred daily for oxygen. From my thinking (I could be totally wrong here), it can’t be too much different from fermenting in a barrel. Barrels allow micro oxidation but not enough that would make a difference during fermentation in another closed vessel.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
From my thinking (I could be totally wrong here), it can’t be too much different from fermenting in a barrel.
Your understanding may be incorrect. My take is that "barrel fermentation" is in a barrel with 1 end knocked out, so essentially it's a bucket with oak sides instead of plastic or steel.

Or MY understanding may be incorrect.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,026
Reaction score
15,237
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
All of the barrel fermented chardonnays I have seen have been on their side with an airlock in the hole.
I found several references to Chardonnay fermented as you said. For reds, I found a couple of method -- one has a large-ish "door" on the side of the barrel to facilitate adding/removing the grapes, while other wineries remove an end, fill the barrel, replace the end for fermentation, and then remove it again when done.

I've known home winemakers who fermented in an open barrel, and made the wrong assumption that it's the way to do it.
 

Latest posts

Top