Illustration by Alyssa Nassner
One of the eight-plus steps used to transform still wine to sparkling is ridding, or remuage in French. Riddling happens towards the end of méthode Champenoise or traditional method of making Champagne, and it is the process of periodically rotating a bottle a quarter of a turn while simultaneously tilting it until it’s upside down. This movement causes sediment accumulating inside the bottle to slide down to the neck. The subsequent removal of those particles, called disgorgement, leaves the appearance of the wine clear instead of cloudy.
Cloudy sparkling wine for drinking isn’t a health concern, but Madame Clicquot, the eponymous widow of Veuve Clicquot fame, thought that Champagne would become more marketable and sell better if there were an effective way to remove sediment and make the wine clear.
Clicquot’s solution was to cut holes in a table at varying angles so bottles could remain stable as they were turned. This special table would later become known as a pupitre, which facilitated the system for remuage. A remueur (bottle turners) could turn 20,000 to 75,000 bottles a day, but this noble skill came at a considerable cost.