While most will likely have something of a rudimentary understanding of Champagne racks, the process of ‘riddling’ is somewhat less commonly known to say the least.
In short, as Champagne begins to mature, riddling is the process required in order to collect the sediment toward the mouth of the bottle.
So, the question then begs as to how said riddling is carried out?
Champagne bottles are positioned in specially built racks or ‘A-frames’ known as pupitres, neck-down at an angle of 45 degrees. The Champagne maker will individually grab the bottom of each bottle, administer a brief and abrupt shake, a quick back and forth twist and a slight adjustment to the angle before dropping it back into the rack.
This is a process that must be repeated at least every one to three days over a timeline of several weeks.
The shaking and twisting of the Champagne bottle is carried out so as to dislodge any particles clinging to the glass on the inside in order to prevent excessive build-ups in particular areas.
The tilting and dropping of the bottles is intended to encourage said particles to gradually move downward, naturally assisted by gravity.
In the very finest, tradition Champagne houses, the process continues today entirely by hand, though the majority of other producers utilize an automated machine originally devised in the 1970s. However, there is debate as to the real worth of the traditional approach, as the accuracy and additional capacity of the automated approach has the potential to produce higher and more consistent results than the manual method ever could.
When the riddling process has been fully completed, the sediment which will have collected in the neck of the Champagne bottle is frozen in order to form something of a ‘plug’ for easy removal.
Following the sediment removal, adjustments are made to the fill level of the bottle and the sweetness of the contents, subsequently followed by corking, caging and shipping out to market.
Read more in the book “CHAMPAGNE AND THE BEST HOUSES: History, terroir, production, people and ideas of the best wine in the world“