What is the name of the person at a winery whose job it is to rotate Champagne bottles?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the name of the person at a winery whose job it is to rotate the wine bottles? I realize it's only recommended for sparkling wines, but my husband and I have been trying to remember the name of the position (I hear they can rotate 1,500 bottles an hour).

Deanna W., Warrensburg, Mo.

Dear Deanna,

You’re thinking of a riddler. Yes, that’s also the name of a comic-book supervillain. Coincidence? Probably.

Riddling is a step in the traditional method of making sparkling wine. Unlike other methods of winemaking, when it comes to bubbly made in the traditional Champagne method, fermentation is happening in every single bottle. That means the sediment (a byproduct of fermentation) that a winemaker would normally leave at the bottom of a barrel or tank is stuck inside each bottle of sparkling wine.

Think of riddling as a way to consolidate all that sediment—you can’t just shake the bottle because sediment will dissipate and make the wine cloudy. But you can’t just leave the bottle still, because it will clump together and stick to the side. By using the help of gravity, a riddler will grab the bottom of each bottle, give it a small shake with a back and forth twist, and over the course of a couple of weeks, increase the incline of the bottle from on its side to completely upside down. When ridding is complete, the sediment is all collected in the neck of the bottle, and then this “plug” is frozen and removed in the process of disgorging.

Nowadays, many sparkling houses have riddling cages, which will do the whole process automatically. Watching a master riddler do it by hand is really an amazing sight. You’re right about the speed—I’ve heard that riddlers can do about 50,000 bottles a day.

There is no need to practice riddling at home—for some reason, some people believe they need to rotate the bottles in their cellar, but I don’t recommend it. If you leave the bottles still, the sediment will collect on one side, and your wines won’t be cloudy or chewy when you drink them.

—Dr. Vinny

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