Two Bees Wine

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Stirring the lees

We figured out that one characteristic we tend to appreciate in wines is mouthfeel. No doubt there are numerous technical ways to explain this concept. I think of cooking, when a recipe says that the texture of a sauce should change from pure liquid to a point where it just coats the back of a spoon. Not that we'd want wine to be similarly thick! But we like when it has enough body to be tasted and felt all around the mouth.

Anthony decided to try stirring the gross lees (the remnants after pressing that accumulate at the bottom of the barrel/carboys while the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation). This, we heard, is one way to enhance mouthfeel.
The 2 glass carboys reveal the sediment layer. It’s like a mossy seafloor at the bottom of an aquarium tank. The wine, the ocean, seems pure and vast by comparison. Soon, once malolactic fermentation finishes, we’ll siphon the wine away from the sediment in a process called racking. Stirring must happen now.

So, Anthony purchased a very special drill bit – a long metal rod with a whirly-gig at the far end. When attached to his Bosch cordless drill and inserted into the bung hole, the gizmo becomes a mini windmill that swirls the lees and gives them a chance to re-interact with the juice – hopefully a beneficial liaison. We conducted our 2 lees stirring ceremonies with great seriousness.

Subsequently, I’ve found scant and vague documentation of lees stirring for red wines. It appears to be employed with whites, in France, quite a bit. They call it battonage, and apply the custom to the fine lees (the dregs after the first racking). And the justification doesn’t necessarily relate to mouthfeel. Some internet conversations link stirring lees to enhancing flavor, and to oxidation to encourage malolactic fermentation. Apparently home wine makers needn’t bother with the practice; the indexes in our guidebooks don’t feature lees stirring as a chapter, sidebar, or glossary term.

We’re not daunted. Lees stirring becomes another prong on our flow chart of variables. It’s all experimentation. With luck, the wine angels will smile this direction. Posted by Picasa


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