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Sur Lie Aging

Winemaking is a devilish mistress. Once it gets into your blood you start to crave just that little bit more, and after a few — or a few dozen — kits many home winemakers wonder if that’s all there is or if they can up the thrill, increase the payoff and be like Oscar Goldman working on that crash-test cyborg to make them better, faster, stronger than before. If you’re one of those winemakers, you’re in luck. In this kit column and in future issues we’ll be exploring expert techniques to increase the flavor impact, character, aroma and overall quality of your kit wine. The first technique, for white wines: aging sur lie. What (is) sur lie? Sur is the French word for “on” and lie is their spelling for lees, the sediment that settles to the bottom of the carboy during (and after) fermentation. In grape wines it consists of dormant and dead yeast cells as well as other grape solids including the skin and the seeds. In kit wines it’s almost exclusively formed from yeast, as the kits