Nobody can question that ageing on lees is already a part of the winemaking process. In this post, we are going to explain not only the meaning but how the process works and what it provides to the wine, thanks to the information provided by the technical team of the winery. Like any other process –this is not different– everything begins with the newly harvested grapes. Here, we take the first step, turning the fruit into must, and then, into wine. But let’s go one step at a time. When the grapes are fermenting, to be exact, after the alcoholic fermentation has taken place, the wine begins to release lees into the bottom of the fermenting container, either vats or barrels. These lees are composed, mainly, by dead yeast that appears after the transformation of the must sugar into alcohol; when decomposing, the yeasts release into the wine some substances that provide some attributes, such as shaping the mouthfeel of the wine, making it smoother and with long-lasting aromas.
Wine must regularly be stirred, so that all the surface of the wine contained in the vat or barrel is in contact with the lees. Depending on the desired wine and the container (vat or barrel), the frequency of the resuspension of the lees during the ageing process will vary. Typically, stirring will be performed once a day at the beginning, and subsequently, it will continue to be done once a week.
Bodega Cuatro Rayas produce several types of wines aged on lees: Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios wine is aged on lees in a stainless steel vat for five months. Grapes come, in this case, from and an old vineyard planted on a sandy soil. Cuatro Rayas Cuarenta Vendimas wine is also defined by ageing on lees in a stainless steel vat for five months, although grapes come from an old vintage planted on a gravelly soil. Amador Díez wine is aged on lees in French and American oak barrels for eight months, and the grapes come from the oldest vineyards of the winery, in this case, pre-phylloxera vines. Lastly, Cuatro Rayas white wine, barrel fermented is aged on lees in French and American oak for eight months.