Autolysis is a chemical reaction that occurs when wine is left in extended contact with the lees (dead yeast cells from fermentation), releasing proteins and carbohydrates into the wine. It imparts aromas of raw bread, brioche, and a slightly creamy texture. It is a common practice in the production of sparkling wines such as Champagne, where regional production law states that contact with the lees should be minimum 15 months for non-vintage wines and three year minimum for vintage champagnes. Many producers in Champagne age their wines for a longer period to achieve pronounced autolysis aromas and flavors. For example, Drappier Quattour non-vintage is aged on the lees for three years, while Laurent Perrier Brut Vintage 2012 was aged for eight years on the lees before being released to the market.
Author: Maytte Rivera