Log In Sign Up

Wine Word of the Month: “Leesy” Winespeak

January 14, 2022

Perhaps you’ve seen the word “leesy” used in our Daily Offers, or in other wine articles or reviews. It’s a term used by some tasters to describe the creamy aromas, textures, and flavors imparted by lees—the dead yeast cells that precipitate out of a wine and form a whitish sediment in the bottle, barrel, or tank. 

Wine Barrels

Technically, the word “lees” refers to all the solids (skins, seeds, stems, etc.) that collect at the bottom of a vessel, so there’s a further distinction: The gross lees are all the solids taken together, while the fine lees are just those dead yeast cells left over from fermentation, which can be desirable in white wine production. (Note: Most modern winemakers filter lees sediment out of the wine at the time of bottling, so the end product is crystal clear.)

Fermenting/aging white wine in oak barrels is a one path to a more opulent, fuller-bodied style of wine, and it is usually (but not always) accompanied by bâtonnage, a.k.a. “lees-stirring.” Bâtonnage re-integrates the lees sediment into the liquid, lending the wine a “creamier” flavor and texture. The lees also serve as a preservative/antioxidant.

There’s also lees aging, or sur lie (“on the lees”), which has the same effect: Leaving the wine in contact with its yeast sediment for an extended period has a noticeable effect on texture, and on the perceived depth and complexity of the wine.