Sur Lie and Bâttonage

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@balatonwine prompted me to start a new thread regarding sur lie and bâttonage.

Sur lie is French for “on the lees", and refers to aging white and red wines on the fine lees, which is yeast hulls. This differs from gross lees, which is mostly fruit solids.

The process is simple -- don't rack off the fine lees. Couldn't be simpler, right? This can be done with most whites, excluding the really fruity ones, as it will produce a yeasty or nutty flavors. It also increases mouthfeel, body, and aromatic complexity. It's done with full-bodied reds to increase mouthfeel and stabilize color.

I got the above information from WineMakerMag.com, and I've seen similar definitions on other sites so I have confidence the article is accurate.

Sur Lie Aging & Bâttonage - WineMakerMag.com

Bâttonage is stirring the lees, essentially an added step to sur lie. Again, simple to do -- stir the fine lees back into suspension.

I'm not doing the bâttonage correctly, as the article says the stirring may be perform daily during early stages of aging, and weekly after that. I use a drill-mounted stirring rod to gently stir my reds in barrel every 3 to 4 weeks, when I top them up. I started the stirring as my barrels are neutral and I use oak cubes for flavoring, and stirring mixes the wine so taste tests reflect the wine as a whole. I discovered that wine does not have convection currents so the wine nearest the cubes is heavily oaked. Stirring homogenizes the wine.

I also note that my wines have a LOT less fine lees than the pictures I've seen, so I expect my technique is not as effective. However, it's saving me unnecessary rackings so there is value.

Note that I stop the stirring 2 months before draining the barrel, to let the lees settle out.
 

balatonwine

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Excellent topic.

I am still trying to figure out the method of stirring the lees. So much art there it seems. So appreciate any input and experience, experiments from others.

I just racked some of my amber wine, and the clear racking got racked into a different barrels than the lees racking at the bottom.

After just three days of settling the two racking had a very different aroma and flavor profile. Amazing. I was very impressed with the lees (bottom of the barrel) racking which was very cloudy but cleared in a few days. The stirring of yeast is maybe very, very under appreciated. And I know, for one, I admit I am a bit clueless, and I do not know how to optimize it.

It may take decades to get it right. Or maybe the "hive mind" of experience here can cut that time short. I hope it might.
 
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@balatonwine, thanks for the example.

I expect the hive mind will develop ideas. I suspect this is not that difficult, once we understand the ramifications.

One of the difficulties is ensuring we fully identify the differences between gross and fine lees. The explanation is simple (fruit solids vs. yeast hulls), but clearly identifying which is which may not be easy. Or maybe it is, and we just don't know it.
 

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Interesting topic! I found this article a while back which has some good information on what happens during sur lie aging/battonage. Also some perspectives from various (mainly French) winemakers on how often to stir (if at all).

I made a 2021 pinot noir and stirred the lees a couple of times during ML. I was planning to do it some more during elevage, but have held off; the wine already tastes great and I don't want to mess with success as they say.
 

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I am interested in this as well. In practice, when there is 1/2" or less fine lees in a 1-gallon jug I do not bother to rack it until I am ready to bottle. So maybe I have been practicing sur lie all along! But I have not been stirring it, so maybe I need to add bâttonage.

@BarrelMonkey Very helpful article! One thing stands out to me: only practice sur lie if the fine lees are healthy. Aroma and taste are the most important clues for that. I usually taste the lees after racking. If the taste is good with no off odors or flavors, then the lees are healthy.
 

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Thanks for initial posting and additional links.

I've been wondering about the effectiveness of oak chips if they are just sitting on the bottom covered by lees. Most of my batches are unoaked and the ones I have oaked don't seem much different. Not sure if the lack of change is just my lack of pallate sensitivity, not enough chips, not enough time or the chips just getting covered by the lees.

Maybe next time I'll try stirring...
 
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Not sure if the lack of change is just my lack of pallate sensitivity, not enough chips, not enough time or the chips just getting covered by the lees.
What amount of chips, what volume of wine, and how long are you aging?

At this time, I have no idea how much lees covering the oak affects absorption by the wine, and suspect that the depth of the lees and the density of the lees matters.
 

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Good timing. This has been something I have been pondering. I am 2 weeks away from my 'ready' date on the Shiraz and Pinot Grigio. I've mentioned before that I intend to rack 3 gallons to a smaller carboy and bottle the remainder of each to experiment with bulk/bottle aging.

Currently both are aging sur lie as per kit instructions, where everything else I have made has been racked off the lees. Thus the recent contemplation. I assume with a kit that there is no gross lees as it is just a juice concentrate, or as you mention above about identifying the difference, could the remaining suspended solids in the juice be considered gross lees?

I suspect with the above description it would be best to get the Pinot Grigio off the Lees at racking, but I could choose to Bâttonage the Shiraz and rack after bottling a portion. This could be very interesting as I would have the bottled portion to gauge the differences.

I had no intention of this at the beginning and followed kit instructions including adding fining agents. Do you think there is any concern with continuing to age on the lees with finings included?

Edit: both have been racked previous to adding finings.
 
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Currently both are aging sur lie as per kit instructions, where everything else I have made has been racked off the lees. Thus the recent contemplation. I assume with a kit that there is no gross lees as it is just a juice concentrate, or as you mention above about identifying the difference, could the remaining suspended solids in the juice be considered gross lees?
Sheesh, Vinny, you just pulled this thread in to a black hole! 😆

Bringing EM into this topic is a change of subject, but it's an important distinction, so I'm cool with discussing it. [Not that me being not cool is going to change anything! ;)]

When I purchased fresh juice sediment always dropped while the juice was resting. While I can't say for sure, I assume concentrate has fruit solids as well. Maybe not a lot, but some. Assuming there is no gross lees is a mistake, but may not be all that bad (see below).

If anyone has evidence otherwise of concentrates having no fruit solids, please post.

Let's note that EM applies to red and white grapes (whites can be fermented on the skin), not red or white juice, as there is no pomace when fermenting just juice. In the context of kits, red kits with skin packs can be subject to EM. Juice/concentrate kits (white and red w/no skin packs) are not, as there is no pomace to macerate on.

After sealing the primary, FWK red (no skinpack) and white Tavola kits are not actually undergoing Extended Maceration, as there is no grape solids to macerate on. It's not long enough to be called sur lie, so I have NO idea what to call it, other the "finishing fermentation". AFAIK, there's no value in keeping the primary closed for more than 1 week (or so) depending on when the lid was closed. This is also true for other kit brands, where there is no skin pack.

From what I've read recently regarding red grape, gross lees drop within 24 to 72 hours of the end of fermentation. Anything after that is fine lees. I'm currently looking for other sources that verify this -- just 'cuz something is posted on the net doesn't make it true.

My 8th grade social studies teacher (LONG before there was an internet) pointed out that our book stated that Nathan Hale (hero of the American Revolution) died in 1776, and was born in 1786. The teacher was fairly certain that was not quite right (his use of sarcasm is still a model for me 40+ years later!), and said that just because something is in a book does not make it correct. That lesson existed prior to the net, and and net (if anything) makes it more important a lesson.​

Based upon what you've said, bottling 2 gallons of each batch now is a good idea. Rack 2+ gallons from the top of the carboy, so the wine is really clear, and bottle 10 bottles.

I have left wine on K&C for an extended period and had no ill effects. However, I cannot say if that was because it's not an issue, or because Dionysus smiled upon me. Unless someone else chimes in with better information, I'd rack off the lees.

Regarding the remaining 3 gallons, I would not worry too much about a 100% clean racking. Add K-meta and ignore the wines for 4 to 8 months (less for Pinot Grigio, more for Shiraz).
 

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Bringing EM into this topic is a change of subject

I don't remember bringing it up. :slp

This is one of the rare places where you can get a detailed answer to a question you didn't even know you asked.

I'm all for experiments, but not at the risk of tainting anything. I'll carry on as planned and rack off the lees. I've been considering picking up another couple of 3 gallon carboys and doing the same with the two new batches I have on the go. I'm really interested in tracking the development of flavors and difference between bottle and bulk aging.

I think I might skip the finings on the two batches I have in primary right now. That way I could split them, age half on the lees and have a side by side comparison of the effects. I could even skip the Bâttonage on one and see if it has pronounced effects over time.

And... We're back on topic!
 
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I don't remember bringing it up.
Maybe you should reduce the vino consumption???? 😆

I used K&C on my quicker aging wines (Tavola red and white) but didn't on the Forte. I considered it, but they'll be in barrel at least 10 months, so I didn't worry about it.

Your ideas are good -- IMO you're on a good track. There's nothing better than experimenting carefully and teaching yourself.
 
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How long did you age the Tavola's?
Five month for a Barbera, made without skinpacks and bulk aged 4 months on 1 oz medium toast Hungarian cubes.

I just bottled 5 bottles of Chardonnay as sparkling wine at the 4 month mark. I expect to age the remainder for 2 months before bottling as still wine, a total of 6 months.

A Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are on order. I expect to bottle each at the 6 month mark. If the Chardonnay works out, I'm thinking of sparkling a gallon of the SB as well.
 

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How do you carbonate? I've been cheating with my soda stream to liven up the Skeeter Pee, DD, and hard lemonade. Makes for a little extra fun. I carbonated DD for my neighbor, she jumped up and said, Oh wow! I want one of those. Haahaha.
 
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How do you carbonate?
I add commercial carbonation drops, which are essentially a measured dose of sugar, to a wine before crown-capping the bottle. The small amount of sugar ignites a renewed fermentation in the bottle. Since the CO2 has no where to go, it remains in the wine, producing carbonation. For a 5 gallon batch, I'd add 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar to the batch, then bottle, producing the same effect. For a gallon, the drops are easier -- 2 in a champagne bottle or 1 in a 12 oz beer bottle.

This method is very easy, but has the drawback that there will be a bit of sediment in the bottle -- pour the last bit carefully.

Other folks force carbonate with a CO2 cylinder and wine in a small keg. Methode Champenoise is similar to the sugar/drops method, but there is a riddling and disgorging process that removes the sediment (search on that, FAR too much to type).

I started a thread in General, describing my failure to check my champagne bottles. In the USA most beer bottles and champagne bottles take a 26 mm cap, and it Europe it's often 29 mm. Over half my champagne bottles were 29 mm, and my capper is 26 mm ... so some went into beer bottles ....
 

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