This week in the cellar we paid each barrel of Chardonnay a visit to stir its lees. This practice is known widely in the wine industry by its French name, bâtonnage. Lees are the sediments which gather at the bottom of a barrel or a tank containing fermenting juice or aging wine.

They are composed of various grape fragments, inactive yeasts and compounds that have crystalized, become heavy and sunk to the bottom of the barrel. A bowed wand with a paddle-like end is used to manually stir the lees in barrels and puncheons. Stirring the lees helps wine develop structure and complexity as well as voluptuous flavors and rich aromas.

In addition, stirring up the lees aids in reducing tart acidity and helps prevent offensive odors from developing. It is most commonly performed on white wines that ferment in barrel, though a winemaker may choose to stir the lees of wines made in stainless steel tanks as well if he finds them too tart or fleeting in flavor.
Click image to enlarge:
Carlos Mascherin, Santa Barbara Winery

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