Riddling is an important stage in the traditional method of making Champagne or quality sparkling wine that is required for bottle fermented wines.
After aging the bottles undergo a process known as riddling (remuage in French). In this stage the bottles are placed on special racks called 'pupitres'. Riddling racks consists of two rectangular boards with a hinged top.
On both sides of the rack have six rows, each row has ten holes designed to hold the champagne bottles by its neck. The riddling rack is capable of holding 120 bottles of champagne; however, there are some that are able to hold more. The person that places the bottles in the racks is called the riddler.
Each bottle is then marked on its base; generally that of a white line. On a daily basis, the riddler must turn each bottle a few degrees. After placing each bottle at a 45 degree angle with the cork pointing down. The shake and twist is intended to dislodge particles that have clung to the glass and prevent the sediments from caking in one spot; the tilt and drop encourage the particles, assisted by gravity, to move downward towards the neck; the time in between riddlings allows the particles to settle out of solution again. In about 6 to 8 weeks the position of the bottle is pointed straight down with sediment in the neck of the bottle.
This manual way of riddling sparkling wine is still used for Prestige Cuvees, but has otherwise been largely abandoned because of the high labour costs. Today this process is nearly entirely done by a machine invented in Spain in the 1970s. Since they handle hundreds of bottles simultaneously, gyro-palettes are both more efficient and more consistent at consolidating sediments than the traditional hand process.
When riddling is finished, the sediment that is collected in the bottle neck is frozen to form a 'plug' which the next step in the process 'degorgement' (or disgorging) removes. After adjusting the fill level in the bottle and setting the sweetness, it is corked, caged (muselet), rested, labelled and then shipped to market.