Behind the Scenes

What is Batonnage? Sur Lie Chardonnay Winemaking Video

Each winter, the Jordan Winery barrel cellar is filled with the sound of batons stirring the lees inside French oak barrels filled with Jordan Chardonnay. The old-world winemaking technique of batonnage, the French term for stirring wine lees, is practiced for every vintage of Jordan Chardonnay, which also means the wine is aged sur lie. Batonnage has a beautiful cadence that is truly music to a winemaker’s ears. It is also one of the most important steps in the winemaking process for the best chardonnay wines in the world.

what is batonnage, sur lie aging, winemaking process
A metal baton is used to stir the lees inside a Jordan Chardonnay barrel.

What is batonnage?

Batonnage is a wonderful tool for quality chardonnay winemakers, almost like a spice rack to a chef. Stirring of the lees–yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the oak barrel–varies in length and frequency every vintage, depending on the complexity of the aromas and flavors of the newly press juice. It could be as short as two stirs of the lees total or as long as six weeks of stirring–usually one stir per week. Employing batonnage in winemaking helps to balance the wine. By keeping the yeast cells in contact with the chardonnay while it ages in French oak barrels–and stirring those lees–we can give the mouthfeel of Jordan Chardonnay a hint of creaminess we desire. But it’s a delicate balancing act: You don’t want to stir the lees too much, or the wine will lose its bright fruit flavors, and that’s the most important attribute in Jordan’s French-inspired style of chardonnay.

sur lie aging wine, batonnage, see through wine barrel
The demonstration barrel showing sur lie aging at Jordan Winery.

What is sur lie aging?

The term sur lie is French for “on the lees.” By oak aging chardonnay sur lie, the wine develops more weight in the mid-palate, more creaminess and more complexity from being in contact with those lees, or yeast cells. Batonnage and sur lie aging go hand in hand. A winemaker must have lees resting in the wine barrel to stir, which means the wine is aging in the barrel on its lees. This batonnage video shows you the inside of a chardonnay wine barrel and these all-too-important lees.

Every barrel of Jordan Chardonnay has been stirred by hand since the inaugural 1979 vintage. As winemaker since the inaugural 1976 Jordan Cabernet, I’ve enjoyed Jordan Chardonnay’s chamber “music” in the barrel room for four decades. Come hear for yourself. If you miss the batons in action, you can see our see-through, sur-lie aging demonstration barrel in the Jordan barrel room during our Estate Tour & Tasting.

Tweets that mention Battonage: an old-world winemaking technique, stir by hand | The Jordan Journey --

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Redman, Jordan Winery, Jordan Winery, WineBlogFeed, Wine Lover and others. Wine Lover said: Battonage: an old-world winemaking technique preserved each winter: Each winter, our barrel … (via @jordanwinery) […]

Stephanie Fox

I love making wine. Last time I made my own strawberry wine. Was absolutely amazing.
Nice post thank you. I think I am going to make some more wine after this wine.

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Appreciate this post. Let me trry it out.

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Rob Davis

I should add that the use of battonage for our chardonnay is not always employed each year. Years of excessive heat like 2017, the skins of the fruit, despite the best care in the vineyard, can suffer from sun burn. We shorten the press cycle to mitigate the extraction of phenol (astringency) from the skins. And yet still some of the juice retains a slight bitterness. The barrel fermentation does a beautiful job removing the bitterness and after the wine is dry, the suspended yeast settle out to the lees. If the lees has a bitter component (like our 2017 Chardonnay), then we rack early off the lees and do not employ battonage. That would only contribute to a bitter finish of the wine. We did have success with our 2017 using a proprietary product called oeno-lees, which is basically a clean version of yeast cells that adds to the mid-palate and finish. While each vintage can be quite different, our winemaking does not follow a set recipe but instead we adapt with the year’s personality in every step of the winemaking. Cheers, Rob Davis, Winemaker Jordan Winery

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[…] Winemakers Academy; Wine Spectator; Jordan Vineyard & Winery; AZ3 […]


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Rob Davis

Winemaker at Jordan from 1976 to 2019. Triathlete, traveler and bon vivant. Retired after 43 growing seasons.

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