WineXpert Fine lees in bulk aging

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-how much fine lees before racking?
From what I've read, gross lees drops between 24 and 72 hours after the end of fermentation. Once fermentation ceases let the wine rest 4 or 5 days and rack. Anything after that is fine lees.

I was originally taught to rack every 3 months during bulk aging. I no longer do that, as it's a waste of time and wine, it unnecessarily exposes the wine to air, and it produces no value.

My rule of thumb is for any action, I ask myself what I'm gaining from it. If I'm not gaining anything, I don't do it.

-how often would you rack in a 1 year bulk?
None. I'm in the "don't rack" camp and have gone as long as 16 months without racking.

Adding K-meta? For barrels, because of the evaporation, it's easy to add at topup time. I use 1/4 tsp K-meta for 19-23 liters of wine, stir gently to distribute, then topup. Carboys are harder to stir. A product is available that is like an Alka Seltzer, drop in the tablet and it dissolves, but it was a bit pricy when I looked at it.

Welcome to WMT! I believe Bryan @winemaker81 did an experiment to see how long it took different types of oak to stop adding flavor.
I conducted a oak stix experiment a few years back, and came to the conclusion that cubes and the oak stix are expended at about 3 months. Other folks concur on that.

My usual product is cubes -- I add them and leave 'em until I rack, 3 to 12 months later. There is evidence that leaving the oak adjunct in longer has a mellowing effect.

For me, oak is a seasoning, not a flavoring, so I go lighter on oak.

There's a lot of "rules" for reds and whites and I'm still sorting what's a true rule and what's opinion. I dwell in the gray area of country wines so at least for now I do whatever I want.
Yup! Wine research is geared towards professionals, so home winemakers are not generally considered. The scale of the winery makes differences, e.g., a home winemaker producing 50 gallons per year has different issues than a winery producing 1,000, 10,000, or 1 million gallons per year. Affording a real laboratory makes a difference.

However, I'm in the camp that wine is an art, not a science. Regardless of how much science we apply, wine is a natural product and there are variables we don't even know about, and can't address much less control. So we do the best we can, and in most cases that works out well.
 

Rice_Guy

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Welcome to WMT

The two main issues with wine are oxidation of the alcohol producing acetaldehyde and poor yeast nutrition generating reductive flavors.
The more you are hyper vigilant about lees, or removing oak or adding meta every three months, the more air exposure. With a red you can get away with it since the polyphenol pigments/ tannin are antioxidants. With a white or fruit wine opening will produce a noticeable flavor change. As a wine maker you need to learn to identify oxidation so you can make a judgement call.
Nutrition is something in the fermentation and with a kit you can assume the vendor has already corrected any issues.

The real rule is that there aren’t hard and fast rules about fine lees, this is an art. Anything which creates air exposure shortens the shelf life, on a fast drinking wine you may not taste it but if you aim for years on a few bottles you will.
 
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Shurt1073

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Thank you everyone for the great info so far!
I’ve got a lot of useful information in the past 24 hours, cleared up a few things I was confused about. Looking forward to learning more!

Remember, the questions you are asking are probably questions other new members might have too! :)
 

Chuck Rairdan

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I've heard it said up to about 3/8" fine lees is no ptoblem through bulk aging as most of yeast sludge is contained in the gross lees. I'll usually hold off a bit on racking off the gross lees to reduce the need to rack again unless desired for other reasons. Just don't want your gross lees to start going anaerobic, so keeping the wine cool also buys you more time before that 1st rack.
 

jgmann67

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I ascribe to the "what do I gain?" method of wine making... With kits, I have adopted a process that involves racking my wines three times before bottling to ensure that it is entirely degassed (once from primary to secondary; once three months later; and, then into a clear carboy for bottling).
 
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I've heard it said up to about 3/8" fine lees is no ptoblem through bulk aging as most of yeast sludge is contained in the gross lees. I'll usually hold off a bit on racking off the gross lees to reduce the need to rack again unless desired for other reasons. Just don't want your gross lees to start going anaerobic, so keeping the wine cool also buys you more time before that 1st rack.
The depth of the fine lees depends on context. I've seen sur lie / battonage videos of fine lees over a foot thick -- in a tank of several thousand gallons. In a home winemaker sized vessel, the depth of the lees will vary with the width of the vessel, e.g., wider will produce a thinner layer with the same amount of lees.

For our (home winemaker) purposes, if racked off the gross lees, the fine lees will be a relatively thin layer, so there should be no problems.
 

BigDaveK

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I agree with @winemaker81 and I'll add a little from my brief experience.

First, full disclosure, I do country wines, no grapes.

I've noticed timing and ingredients play a part. My current protocol - as soon as the neck of the container starts to clear in secondary I rack to bulk. For a gallon jug I usually get an eighth inch of fine lees, maybe a bit more (or less). For a 3 gallon carboy I'll hit 1/4 inch +/-. I'll do my first batonnage at 2 weeks, the next at four weeks, and then monthly. Using a lazy susan to spin the container I don't expose the wine to oxygen. Also, I haven't done sur lie without batonnage.

I really like the results and I'd suggest trying it at least once.
 

bstnh1

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I rack off the gross lees. I then rack again when I degas and add k-meta. About a month later I rack again and add k-meta. I will rack one or two more times over the next few weeks or months depending upon the amount of fine lees I see at each racking. I always rack to a new carboy when bottling. Some wines I bottle 2-3 months after start date; some go as long as 6 months. I have never found any sediment in any bottles, even some reds that were 10 years old.
 

Chuck Rairdan

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The depth of the fine lees depends on context. I've seen sur lie / battonage videos of fine lees over a foot thick -- in a tank of several thousand gallons. In a home winemaker sized vessel, the depth of the lees will vary with the width of the vessel, e.g., wider will produce a thinner layer with the same amount of lees.

For our (home winemaker) purposes, if racked off the gross lees, the fine lees will be a relatively thin layer, so there should be no problems.
Yup, was thinking in carboy terms. Once did batonage on a peach wine with about 2 inches of lees and stirring about twice a week for about 3 months. Definitively added body and complexity.
 

Dantheman

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Yup, was thinking in carboy terms. Once did batonage on a peach wine with about 2 inches of lees and stirring about twice a week for about 3 months. Definitively added body and complexity.
So I’ve been reading up on battonage and seems interesting, it’s something I’m going to try but I haven’t seen anyone mention air exposure and oxidation due to having to open the Carboy to stir the fine lees back into suspension multiple times over the course of bulk, how do you guys stir your lees?
 
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So I’ve been reading up on battonage and seems interesting, it’s something I’m going to try but I haven’t seen anyone mention air exposure and oxidation due to having to open the Carboy to stir the fine lees back into suspension multiple times over the course of bulk, how do you guys stir your lees?
The short answer is K-meta. Keep your wine dosed with K-meta (1/4 tsp per 19-23 liters) every 90 days. Stir gently, you just need to get the lees back into suspension. Ensure all equipment is clean and sanitized.
 

BigDaveK

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So I’ve been reading up on battonage and seems interesting, it’s something I’m going to try but I haven’t seen anyone mention air exposure and oxidation due to having to open the Carboy to stir the fine lees back into suspension multiple times over the course of bulk, how do you guys stir your lees?
I mentioned in message #29 that I use a lazy susan, no need to open container, no exposure to air. Spin for about 15+ seconds in one direction, spin about 15+ seconds in the other direction. Done. Probably wouldn't work for a barrel.😄
 

Xlev

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Adding K-meta? For barrels, because of the evaporation, it's easy to add at topup time. I use 1/4 tsp K-meta for 19-23 liters of wine, stir gently to distribute, then topup. Carboys are harder to stir. A product is available that is like an Alka Seltzer, drop in the tablet and it dissolves, but it was a bit pricy when I looked at it.
Winemaker81 what is the product called?
 
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@BigDaveK, I was serious. Folks make barrel-sized roller stands, so just spin 'em.

My barrels (54 liter) are small enough to roll, if the stand I built would allow it. I considered getting 6 or 8 casters and building a support where I could roll the barrels. I'm still thinking about it.
 
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