During enological fermentations, superfluous oxygen consumption by yeast cells is observed. The superfluous oxygen consumed by the yeast cells is mainly related to the operation of non-respiratory oxygen consumption pathways resulting in an overall decrease in the total sterol fraction in yeast. On the other hand, yeast lees remaining at the end of alcoholic fermentations exhibit specific oxygen utilization rates ranging from 1 to 4 micromol O2 h- 10(-10) cells from the second to the thirteenth month of wine aging. This oxygen consumption capacity of yeast lees was independent of residual cell viability. In this study, we investigated the potential relationship between the oxygen added to commercial yeast strains during enological fermentation and the capacity of the corresponding yeast lees to interact with oxygen. Additions of low (7 mg l(-)) and excess (37 mg l(-1)) amounts of oxygen at the end of the cell growth phase were compared in terms of repercussions on the oxygen consumption activity of the corresponding yeast lees. As expected, the superfluous oxygen consumption by yeast cells during fermentation had a positive influence on the fermentation kinetics and increased cell biomass formation. Oxygen consumption rates and the total capacity of oxygen consumption by the corresponding yeast lees clearly decreased when oxygen was added during fermentation. This marked decrease in yeast lees reactivity towards oxygen was concomitantly related to an increase in ergosterol synthesis and to oxygen-dependent sterol degradation. Such degradation occurred when oxygen was added in excess. Therefore, oxygenation control during fermentation appears to be a potential way to optimize both the fermentation kinetics and control yeast lees reactivity towards oxygen. For practical applications, oxygenation control during alcoholic fermentation may be considered as a general tool for decreasing the highly reductive effect of yeast lees during wine aging.