As part of Winemaker Dave’s approach to making white wines, he’s all-in on using bâtonnage as a technique for building body and enhancing mouthfeel. It’s a big reason for the popularity of our Helios Seyval Blanc, Joy Seyval Blanc Brut, and Rhapsody Pinot Blanc white wines. The method ensures a better balance between flavor and acidity, making all three wines super food-friendly.
In plain English, bâtonnage is the process of stirring the lees after fermentation is finished. Lees are comprised partially of the dead yeast cells that result after the yeast has converted the sugars in the grape juice into the alcohol content of the wine. Lees also include other solids from the grapes. Because they naturally settle to the bottom of the fermentation vessel—in our case a plastic polytank—stirring the lees puts them back into suspension with the wine to enhance the wine’s structure, complexity, and texture.
Not every winemaker uses bâtonnage, and—as explored in an article in Wine Searcher by Kathleen Willcox—some have abandoned it in response to climate changes in the vineyard. In the feature, “Stirring Stuff: Changing Times for Bâtonnage,” she interviewed several winemakers around the world for their current take on the practice… Including Winemaker Dave. Here’s what she wrote:
Bâtonnage or bust
For some though, bâtonnage is – and will likely always be – one of the foundational aspects of their approach to winemaking, especially when they’re leery of too much acid.
At Bells Up Estate Vineyard in Oregon, Dave Specter relies on bâtonnage, he says, to build “texture and mouthfeel. I use it on white wines when I want to showcase balanced acidity, as opposed to crispness.”
Specter deploys the technique with Pinot [Blanc] and Seyval Blanc, using a paddle every few days to stir the lees in tank.
“I don’t oak my whites, and my batches are small enough to make manual stirring effective,” he says. “The result is a smoother finish, which is better for sipping and most food pairings. I have no plans to change – my customers love them and I’d be foolish to change that.”