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    Melon de Bourgogne Wines

    In a typical white wine fermentation, the grapes are pressed, the juice is moved into barrels or tanks, and the wine is racked off the lees, fairly early on. ("Racking" is the name for the process of siphoning or pumping the clear wine out of the tank, leaving behind the residual glop from the yeasts; the glop is known as the "lees".) Most white wines are racked immediately after completion of fermentation, and once or twice more after about 2 months. The lees at first racking are called the "gross lees", and at second racking are called "fine lees".

    The finest Muscadet wines are made in a method known as Sur Lies (translates to "with lees"). This method is where there is one or no early rackings done; the wine is fermented and aged in barrels on the lees. My understanding is that in the Appellation Controlee system in France, by law, a Muscadet wine may be racked off the gross lees, but must remain on the fine lees until March 1st. The wine may be bottled after that date, and may be filtered at bottling.

    When making a wine with the intent of fresh and fruity flavors, not intended for long-term aging, for example a Pinot Gris or Riesling, oak barrels are not likely to be used at all. When the wood characteristics are desired, for example a Chardonnay, aging is done in new small oak barrels, typically 60 gallon size. A new oak barrel imparts oak flavors only for the first few months of use, and afterwards is refered to as "neutral oak". Such a used barrel still helps the wine to age through evaporation, thus is not truly neutral, and may add desirable characteristics.

    Although the classic 60 gallon oak wine barrel is still in common use for Muscadet, they are almost always used barrels as the oak characteristic is not considered desirable.

    There are also wonderful Muscadet wines made in the "new world" style of truly neutral storage (typically glass lined concrete or stainless steel) tanks. These wines are more likely to show fresh fruity and aromatic characteristics, whereas oak aged will usually be softer and somewhat more complex.


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