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Elizabeth Nixon
April 22, 2016 | Around the Winery, People, Riddling Machine, Sparkling winemaking, Spotlight, Winemaking | Elizabeth Nixon

Rack & Riddle Unveils New Riddling System to Increase Capacity

Rack & Riddle adheres to tradition by crafting sparkling wine in the age-old French méthode Champenoise, but is entirely modern in its Rack & Riddle antique pupitre for riddling, used just for display at this custom crush facility based in Sonoma County.technologies. While centuries ago Champagne bottles were turned periodically by hand on racks called pupitres to riddle out sediment, Rack & Riddle employs a high-tech riddling system without parallel, where thousands of cases of wine can be riddled—with various riddling programs at once—and even operated remotely in the near future.

With Rack & Riddle’s winemaking methods hailing from France, it’s fitting that some of its latest technologies do, too.  

This month, Rack & Riddle’s team of mechanics: Beto Duran, Javier Acevedo, and Jose Ramirez, led by Facilities Manager Stan Jennings and John Clark, installed a set of new high-tech riddlers built and shipped from the Champagne region of France.

“We worked on everything from setting up the new frames and structural wiring, to installing the cages and sensor switches. We emptied out the existing riddlers, set them in the new, correct position, and put new sensors and control panels on each of them so they’re all connected,” said Rack & Riddle Mechanic Jose Ramirez. “We’re unique in the sense that there aren’t too many facilities out there that have this set up.”

The project, which increased riddling capacity for Rack & Riddle by 30 percent, wrapped up in under two weeks’ time, two days ahead of schedule and under budget. The team, along with the manufacturer Oeno Concepts’ Frederic Questiaux, engineered a customized riddling control system to incorporate Rack & Riddle’s original riddlers, some dating back to 1983. The resulting installation allows winemakers to create riddling programs at their desks, and easily modify riddling to meet clients’ varied needs.

“That’s a great thing—before you had to stand at the riddler itself and modify it, and before I was buying parts off eBay to maintain our old set up. For the VLMs (large riddlers housing 384 cases each), we used to have to bring in programmers to modify it,” said Rack & Riddle Facilities Manager Stan Jennings.

“Now our winemakers can create a riddling program at their desks, and just take a USB stick to the control panel. In six months to a year, they expect to have the ability to remotely monitor, so winemakers can view the riddlers from their offices and know how much time is left on each one,” said Jennings.

Sediment in the bottle being riddled at Rack & Riddle Custom Wine ServicesThe team of mechanics, overcoming a trifecta of language barriers—with various team members speaking French, Spanish and English—worked with Jennings, Clark and three engineers from France, nimbly applying their mechanical and electrical expertise to learn a complex new system, and install and operate the set up with no errors.  

The six new quadras (each containing four cages) have brought Rack & Riddle’s riddling capacity to a total of 4,032 cases. The riddlers are considered the best available in the industry—manufactured and shipped from Oeno Concepts in France.

“The updated control panel gives us the ability to have multiple riddling cycles, and do smaller, more customized trials for our clients,” said Rack & Riddle General Manager Mark Garaventa. “We can know the outcome of a trial by utilizing a pair of cages for testing, vs. having to devote numerous riddlers to testing. This makes us much more efficient in determining the proper riddling cycle for specific products.”

With the expansion of riddling capacity, along with a new sparkling wine disgorging line, Rack & Riddle is positioned as one of the largest of a handful of custom crush houses in the nation specializing in méthode Champenoise, and a leader in the custom sparkling wine sector.


If you’re looking for a home for your grapes this year, check out Rack & Riddle’s full-service custom crush programs for both sparkling and still wines. Click to request a custom crush quote. From grape to bottle, to riddling and disgorging to just finishing and bottling your wine, Rack & Riddle offers every winemaking service you may need. For those seeking sparkling or still wine shiners, take a look at Rack & Riddle’s private label wine program of award-winning wines. The shiner program turn-around-time from order to finished case goods is an average of just three months. Contact Rack & Riddle or call anytime to discuss your needs: 707-433-8400


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