The Gross Lees

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

The gross lees is a winemaking term that describes dead yeast cells and other cellular matter left over from fermentation. Typically encountered immediately after fermentation is complete, the gross lees forms at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.

Immediately after fermentation is complete, wine begins a natural process of clarification. This natural process of clarification involves gravity slowly causing small particles to settle to the bottom of the vessel containing the wine. The formation of the gross lees usually takes several days to complete. Depending on the wine being produced, extended exposure to the gross lees may not be desired. This is because the gross lees can introduce an unpleasant bitter taste to the wine. Wines not requiring exposure to the gross lees are quickly separated through a process known as racking. Certain types of white wines however do benefit from exposure to the gross lees. The process of sur lie advocates allowing the wine to remain exposed to the gross lees for an extended period of time. By utilizing the sur lie process, additional flavors and complexities are imparted to the wine.

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