glossary

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Lees: Sediment—dead yeast cells, grapeseeds, stems, pulp and tartrates (harmless tartaric acid crystals)—remaining in a barrel or tank during and after fermentation. Immediately following fermentation, wine should be racked off of the gross lees, the large particulate matter such as seeds, skins and stems, which are rich in spoilage organisms. The wine may be aged for an extended period on the fine lees, however, in what's called "sur lie" aging. Fine lees, the dead yeast cells leftover from fermentation, can enhance an aging wine with added richness, flavor and aroma complexity, and can also bind with excess tannins.

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Charmat: A less expensive, mass-production method for producing bulk quantities of sparkling wine. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Also known as the bulk process or tank method. Wines made this way cannot be labeled méthode Champenoise.

Sur Lie: Wines aged sur lie (French for "on the lees") are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered. This is mainly done for whites, to enrich them. (It is a normal part of fermenting red wine, and so is not noted.) The concept originated in Burgundy, with Chardonnay, but is now popular around the world with numerous white grape varieties. Sur lie aging can be overdone, leading to an off-putting leesy flavor.

Recently Disgorged: Indicates that the lees have been removed from a sparkling wine just prior to release. After sparkling wine has undergone the second fermentation in the bottle, the wine can remain on the lees for many years to develop additional complexity and richness.

Riddling: In making sparkling wine, the process of moving the sediment remaining in the bottle from the second fermentation to rest on the cap for easy removal. The process of riddling is unique to méthode traditionelle and was developed by Madame Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot) in the early 1800s to remove the cloudy lees from the bottles. The bottles are loaded in a horizontal position onto wooden racks called pupitres. At this point, the sediment rests on the side of the bottle. As the bottles are riddled, or given a sharp quarter-turn daily and gradually tilted upside-down, the sediment works its way to the bottle neck. Today, most producers use efficient mechanical riddlers.

Tank Method: Also known as charmat, a less expensive method for making sparkling wine. The tank method is used to produce bulk quantities of inexpensive sparkling wines. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Wines made this way cannot be labeled méthode Champenoise.

Bâtonnage: French term for stirring the lees during the aging and maturation of wine.

Press: After fermentation, the mixture of red grape juice, skins, lees and other solids is pressed to separate the juice from the solids. Because extended skin contact is undesirable for white wines, white grapes are pressed before fermentation.

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