Do lees ageing and batonnage give the same result in a wine...?

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Lees ageing or batonnage?

John Guthrie, from Edinburgh asks: Do lees ageing and batonnage (stirring the lees) give the same result in a wine, and is batonnage just a faster way of achieving that?

Jean-Charles Thomas, is the winemaker for Maison Louis Latour, replies: Yes, the two processes give pretty much the same result – it’s essentially a stylistic choice.

The lees (the dead yeast cells) enrich the wine with mannoproteins, which help with tartrate stability and may mean less need for the wine to undergo cold stabilisation. The reductive nature of the lees also provides some protection against oxidation too.

Batonnage is useful when the must (the grape juice, plus stems, pips and skins) has been heavily disbursed after pressing; stirring helps the few remaining lees go back into suspension.

No or very little batonnage is practised at Maison Louis Latour as we don’t feel it is needed in our wines. With about 10cm of lees in each tank, the mannoprotein enrichment and protection against oxidation occurs naturally on its own.

Wines that have been aged on their fine lees or had batonnage taste similar, though the latter gives a more distinct character. The processes enhance a wine’s yeasty flavour, make the mouthfeel rounder and can also balance any overly fruity notes.

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