Sur lie

by Staff Writer - A. Heinzman | June 14, 2012

Sur lie is a winemaking term that describes the exposure of wine to the dead yeast cells known as the gross lees. The process of Sur lie is usually only practiced with white wines. Sur lie is a French term that when translated means "on the lees".

After fermentation has completed, wine begins a natural process of clarification where particles of dead yeast cells settle to the bottom of the wine. The settling of dead yeast cells along with other cellular matter forms the gross lees. Typically, wines are not left in contact with the gross lees as a bitter taste can be imparted to the wine. For certain white wines, the process of sur lie advocates exposure to the gross lees. In the process of sur lie, additional flavors are introduced to the resulting wine. Sur lie results in white wines developing a greater complexity and can usually impart toasty qualities to the wine. Additional procedures associated with the sur lie process include periodic agitation practices. This periodic agitation — also known as Batonnage — prevents the formation of foul odors within the wine.

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