Thank you Nancie Hemminger, Simon Hucko, and Robert Morris for your contributions to Napa vs. Bordeaux last week!
This week: Riddling
What is riddling, its purpose, and the benefit(s) of doing so by machine versus hand?
Riddling is the process by which the yeast deposit in a bottle of sparkling wine is gradually maneuvered into the neck so that they may be eventually removed. Traditionally this was done by hand, but now it's mostly done with machines called gyropalettes because they are able to do the job much more quickly and can hold many more bottles, producing more traditional method wine faster and more cost effectiveeffectively.
Riddling is done for sparkling wine. The process of riddling is to remove the lees that it has been aged on from the bottle to create a clear wine. Riddling is done by slowly rotating the bottles by hand to remove the lees. By hand, it can be done using a “pupitre’, which is a wooden A-frame wine rack that holds up to 60 bottles and takes 8 weeks to complete the process. By machine however, a “gyropalette’ holds 504 bottles and gets the process done in about 8 days. The benefit of the machine, as stated above, is that it gets the process done in a fraction of the time without affecting quality of the product inside.
Visited a winery recently where they use both methods (hand and gyropalette). Winemaker said both produce the results that they want (obviously the gyropalette is faster), but there was an interesting advantage to hand riddling - when they had "sticky" lees they could give it a little more oomph by hand to help them settle up the neck of the bottle, whereas the machine just relies on gravity and wasn't as effective in some cases.
Because of the labor costs involved, hand riddling is mostly restricted to high-end wines. Meanwhile most sparkling wines are riddled by gyropalette which was invented by 2 French nationals who worked in the wine business, jacque Ducion and Claude Cazals. A patent was granted to them in 1968,and the house of Codorniu in Spain was their first customer.
We're talking a very small production of sparkling here, they absolutely save labor with the gyropalette and I'm sure it lets them produce more but I don't think labor is a limiting factor for them. It's more about space and throughput.