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Need clarification on ageing on the lees

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buttonsrtoys

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I'm new to winemaking and currently making a Chardonnay. I've been reading up on ageing on the lees and would like to give it a try. I'm clear on the concept of not racking off the lees and mixing during bulk ageing, but it's not clear to me how and where to deviate from my kits instructions. They are:

Day 1 - primary fermentation (pkg #2, yeast)
Day 10 - secondary fermentation (rack)
Day 18 - stabilization and degassing (rack, pkgs #3 & #4, Kieselsol)
Day 19 - clearing (rack, Chitosan)
Day 29 - bottling (rack to bulk-ageing carboy for me)

I'm thinking to age on the lees, I wouldn't rack on Days 19 & 29 to keep the fine sediment in the carboy? Or maybe rack on Day 19 but not Day 29? Either way, would I add the Chitosan? Any clarification would be greatly appreciated!
 
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pete1325

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I would stick to the kit's instructions.......for now. Once you get comfortable making wine you can experiment then......besides......aging on lees can give your wine a funny taste, not to mention whites don't age like reds. JMHO.
 

buttonsrtoys

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Pete, I appreciated the thoughts but have six kits on the go and just wanted to experiment with lees with one. The Chardonnay I want to experiment with is a Costco double-kit and I made the first kit by-the-book and its currently bulk ageing. I want to experiment with lees with the second. Regarding reds, my understanding from my reading was that whites do better on the lees?
 
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pete1325

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Sorry, thought it was your first kit. I don't make whites so you might be right about aging on lees.....I'm sure someone else will chime in.
 

cgallamo

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There is a great article on this in winemaker below. I tried this before, but had h2s issues and had to rack. My guess was not enough stirring (battonage). Be prepared to take lots of samples. If you are willing to experiment with a gallon or two, I really like the recommendation at the end of the article. It is:

For your first try at sur lie aging consider racking a gallon or even just a bottle or so of wine, with the lees, and take it too far on purpose. Not that we want to ruin any of your wine but it would be helpful to understand what flavors and aromas develop as the process goes beyond the beneficial stages. This way you’ll have a better understanding of what to look for regarding off flavors and aromas.

http://winemakersacademy.com/sur-lie-aging-explained/
 

buttonsrtoys

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Thanks cgallamo. The link says, "Preparation for sur lie aging begins as fermentation is wrapping up. The lees should be stirred up every two to three days for the last bits of fermentation. Once fermentation has ended continue to stir the lees once or twice each week for a period of six weeks or so. After that stir it up monthly."

Translating to my kit, does that mean I'd apply Days 1 (primary), 10 (secondary), & 18 (degassing) as described in my original post, skip Day 19 (clearing & Chitosan) & skip Day 29 (racking to carboy) and instead start stirring the lees after Day 18 (degassing)? (I completed Day 18 yesterday, so that would fit neatly into my schedule.)
 
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cgallamo

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Oh yeah, I forgot to say if it were me I would eliminate the Kieselsol and Chitosan steps - hopefully someone else has some experience there. If you already did the Kieselsol no big deal. In theory you could save until you were finished. I think you are right on, yes, skip day 19 and day 29, and stir as directed. ;)

Are you going to just save off a gallon or do the whole batch?
 

buttonsrtoys

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Thanks for the follow-up c! It hadn't occurred to me to save the Chitosan until the end. Will do.

I'm thinking I'll do the whole batch on the lees but err on the side of racking off sooner rather than later. Maybe after six weeks? What do you think?

I'll take your advice and follow the article's recommendation to bottle a few bottles with lees and age them too long to experience what that tastes like.

I just gave them their first stir. Was quite the cloud! Kinda fun, too!
 

cgallamo

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Hey man you've inspired me. I'm going to take another shot with this Chenin Blanc juice I have coming next week and do a gallon or three sur lie. This might be a use case for 375ml bottles too. Taste every three months or so and take notes.

Good luck!
 

buttonsrtoys

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OK, so it's been six weeks of my first ageing on the lees and it worked great. Much smoother than its sibling kit that was aged per instructions. Will be interesting to taste compare again in the coming months.

One last question. My kit says wait 10 days for bottling after adding the Chitosan for clearing. I added the Chitosan a couple days ago after finishing ageing on the lees and boy did it clear. Looking great after two days, though I'm new to winemaking, so maybe don't have the best eye for this.

Do I really have to wait the 10 days, or does wine aged on the lees clear faster than younger wine made by following the kit directions?
 

cgallamo

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I agree with waiting, unless you have things to do coming up.

But to answer your question directly, my experience is it clears faster yes. Probably unrelated to whether there were lees in the wine, but just that it has been sitting for awhile, solids have dropped out of suspension. If you are happy with the clarity and taste - go for it. Keep your notes, see how it turns out.

Do you have any pics?

I'm still stirring lees in my Chenin...
 

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