Don your beret and grab a glass of Chardonnay, my fellow wine lovers - it's time for a little French lesson for our latest Wine Word of the Week!
Bâtonnage (ba-tun-AJH) is a French term which refers to the stirring of a wine with a bâton (pictured below) while it is being fermented sur lie, or "on the lees." Lees is a French term that refers to the dead yeast cells and other particulate matter that collects at the bottom of the barrel as a normal byproduct of fermentation. Allowing the wine to remain in contact with these cells imparts a fuller, richer body and more complexity to the wine.
Stirring or bâtonnage facilitates this process by maximizing the wine's exposure to the lees (see video below). The extent to which this technique is employed is determined by the winemaker and the style of wine he or she is trying to produce. The more contact the wine has with the dead yeast cells, the more effect it will have on the wine. Ultimately the lees are filtered out of the wine before it is bottled once it has completed its vinous mission.
Because they are intrinsically linked, you will usually see the terms "sur lie" and "bâtonnage" used together. These techniques are best known for their role in producing white wines such as White Burgundy as well as New World incarnations of the Chardonnay grape.
I hope you enjoyed this Wine Word of the Week, to view previous installments of this segment please click here. And if YOU have a wine word you'd like to learn more about, please let me know in the comment section below - thanks!