RJ Cole Winery

Insights into the world of an amateur home winemaker.

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Cole Wines anagrams to Senile Cow.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sur Lie

Interesting method I just read about over at Winepress today. It's called sur lie which means, literally, "on the lees." The lees are the "detritous of fermentation, consisting of dead yeast, fruit debris and schmutz." Per the Wikipedia. Sounds nasty, right? Well, Jack Keller pointed out that aging the wine on the lees, or sur lie, is actually "...an advanced winemaking technique for adding mouthfeel to a wine."

"Interesting," thought I. I posted a reply on the discussion board asking Jack more about sur lie aging. Here is his reply:

Sur lie aging is begun deliberately. You must remove all gross lees (pulp, skins, seeds) before beginning sur lie. This is best done by straining the wine well during transfer from primary to secondary. If finely particled gross lees form after transfer, it is best to forego sur lie with the current batch.

Allow fine lees (yeast lees) to form in secondary over a two-three month period as wine clears. Remove airlock, add maintenance dose of sulfite, and gently stir wine with long wooden dowel or plastic rod (sanitized, of course). Mark calendar.

Stir lees gently every 5-7 days. Mark calendar each time to get a regular interval established. Measure SO2 with SO2 test kit every 30 days. When sulfite level drops below 30 ppm, add maintenance dose and stir.

You must maintain this schedule of regular stirring and periodic maintenance doses of sulfite. If wine does not really clear, add a little pectic enzyme (1/2 tsp per gal).

Sur lie aging usually lasts at least 6 months, but 8-10 is more common. Taste the wine once a month after 4-6 months and rack when the wine tastes good. You may have to rack 2-3 times, 30 days apart, to get absolute clarity, but usually twice is enough. Always remember to check sulfites because you are removing the airlock often and exposing the wine to oxygen.

Wow. That sounds like a LOT of work! So, in the space of a couple of days, I'll have to decide if I want to try this on my Pumpkin Wine or not. I'd definitely like to try it sometime, but as busy as I've been lately, I don't know if I'll have the time to do all that. But then again, as fun as winemaking can be, the majority of the time (during aging) is spent doing practically nothing to the wine. So this might make it more interesting, and it couldn't hurt to improve the mouthfeel.

Also, Jack Keller responded to me!!! For anyone who might happen to visit here, you should check out both Jack Keller's Blog and The Winemaking Page from my links at the left. Mr. Keller is, from what I can tell, the home winemaking guru. It was the Winemaking Page where I first found the recipe for my Blackberry Wine, and read through the process to discover it wasn't so difficult.

Thanks, Jack!


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