Fact Friday: Qui se passe avec ‘Les Lees’?

In our Fact Friday post about racking, we explained how our aged wine is siphoned off ‘les lees’ and prepared for bottling. We did not explain, however, what happens to the lees after the wine has been removed. The lees, or the thick deposit of dead yeast cells and other grape matter, is not always disposed of and is often reused.

Donkey and Goat reuses the lees by adding it to other wines for two reasons: fining wine and assisting MLF. When a wine is extremely cloudy, it may be necessary to ‘fine’ the wine. To do so, a fining agent is added to absorb particles that make the wine cloudy. The fining agent will, along with the particles, settle to the bottom resulting in a clearer wine. As always with Donkey and Goat, our fining agent is one of the most natural fining agents used: les lees! Although fining with the lees is a slower process, it does not harm the flavor and will ultimately create a clearer product. Also, adding the lees to some wines can assist the MLF process. When certain toxins are present in a wine during MLF, it harms bacteria involved in MLF and thus prevents MLF from occurring. The lees can absorb such toxins and in this way assist MLF.

Jared Brandt, one of Donkey and Goat’s proprietors, has also previously tried to make a barbeque sauce with remaining sediment. Unfortunately this use did not produce the desired results.

There are sentiments mitigées about the lees when found in bottle. To many connoisseurs, finding the lees in bottle is a sign of a well-aged wine. However, because the lees are insipid, they can also be viewed as an unpleasant disturbance to a wine’s taste and are commonly decanted from the bottle. One bottle, crafted by the Spanish Chef Martín Berasategui, attempts to eliminate need for further decanting of wine by trapping the lees at the bottom of the bottle.