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Premium Private-Label Wines Quickly Becoming a Standard Bearer

Rack & Riddle — A Leader in Private-Label Sparkling Wines

Beauty shot of Rack & Riddle sparkling wines with cheese and wine glassHealdsburg, Calif. (November 11, 2018) — In the past year, there has been significant industry buzz about private-label products exceeding sales expectations. Growth trajectories forecast private-label products surpassing all branded product tiers — and premium wines are at the top of that list. Rack & Riddle, a national leader in custom-produced sparkling wines and a perennial favorite for custom wine services in Northern California, has been at the forefront of the private-label wine sector since 2007. They bottle top-selling sparkling wine for some of the nation’s largest retailers and wineries.

Rack & Riddle sets the gold standard in premium private-label California sparkling wines crafted in the true Méthode Champenoise technique — the traditional French method where the bubbly undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, resulting in the highest caliber of wine. Rack & Riddle continually wins prestigious awards for taste and quality, and anticipates rave reviews for it newly released California Brut Sparkling Wine. This varietal partnered with a strategic store brand is sure to impress shoppers with its taste, quality and attractive price-point.

Why Private-label Sparkling Wine?

Today’s savvy consumers are demanding more value-based premium products and private-label sparkling wines are high on that list. According to The Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Wine Handbook, “Consumers have discovered that sparkling wines are not just for special occasions and rosés are not just for warm weather.” These days, a $10-15 bottle of premium private-label sparkling wine, often receives the same rave reviews as high-end branded counterparts. Consumers see and taste the value of purchasing lower priced private-label product with the same high quality.

Costco and Sam’s Club aren’t the only retailers vying for sales in the private-label marketplace. Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and even 7-Eleven have recently jumped aboard the private-label wine train. In fact, there is a current trend toward private-label wine blends (both still and sparkling) because retailers are seeing a 50-55% profit margin vs. 30-35% on branded, according to Wine Industry Advisor. Rack & Riddle has mastered the production of custom-blended premium private-label sparkling wines.

“Our Sparkling Winemaking Team — led by Penny Gadd-Coster — continues to win numerous industry awards in both private-label and branded wine competitions. This is an exciting time for sparkling wines, with notable growth during the last three years. Rack & Riddle is ready to help you execute your sparkling wine product initiatives and to make your brand the prestige sparkling wine your consumer-clients choose with regularity and confidence,” says Business Development Manager Cynthia Faust.

Rack & Riddle’s Latest Private-Label Release

California Brut Sparkling Wine is newly released for private-label customers. It’s a blend of traditional Sparkling varietals artistically produced in the true Méthode Champenoise style, producing a rich, complex wine with fine bubbles. Tirage-bottled in early 2018, it is “non-vintage,” produced from multiple distinctive vintages.

Beautifully expressive, it expresses honeysuckle, pear and bright fruit in the nose. Creamy bubbles follow with a smooth finish that lingers with citrus notes and apple.

Retailers provide their own store-branded wine label design for product packaging and shipping.

Facts About Rack & Riddle’s Private Label Sparkling Wine Program

If you are a retailer looking to tap into the private-label wine market, listed are a few facts about Rack & Riddle’s Private Label Program:

  • Custom sparkling wine blends: Each client is given a personal consultation with winemakers to create custom branded sparkling wine blends.
  • Award-winning: Rack & Riddle sparkling wines consistently win Gold Medals and Best of Class.
  • Premium Méthode Champenoise: Private-label sparkling wines made with tradition — varietals vary.
  • Streamlined order process: Easy order process and expedited service.
  • High-demand product: Sparkling wine at great value that pairs perfectly with any occasion or season.

For more information about Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services and to learn more about currently available varietals, contact business development manager Cynthia Faust: cynthia@rack&riddle.com or (707) 433- 8400 x212.

ABOUT RACK & RIDDLE CUSTOM WINE SERVICES

With its expansion in 2014 to two new locations in Sonoma County, and the installation of a high-output automated production line, Rack & Riddle is proudly committed to providing pristine facilities where award-winning winemakers craft both still and sparkling wines. Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle, base-to-bottle, and private-label wine programs. Their facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually. To learn more, visit Rack & Riddle online at www.rackandriddle.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact:

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Faust
Business Development Manager
(707) 433-8400 x201
cynthia[at]www.rackandriddle.com

2018 World Series Championship Brut Released

Wine by Design Announces the Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series Championship Sparkling Wine is Now Available for Purchase

Image: Boston Red Sox World Series Champions 2018 Limited Edition Championship BrutHealdsburg, Calif. (November 7, 2018) — The Boston Red Sox have won their fourth championship title in the last 14 years. To commemorate their momentous victory, the Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series Championship Brut has just been released. Club fans and baseball aficionados can purchase a limited-edition bottle of this premium bubbly worthy of celebrating the team’s big victory at MLB.com/wine, or at select retail locations.

Wine by Design, the exclusive wine licensee of Major League Baseball, has again partnered with Rack & Riddle to deliver a premium limited-release World Series Championship Brut. The bubbly is sure to be a home run for both the Boston Red Sox and its loyal Red Sox Nation.

Winning the World Series is always a significant and historical victory. The winning club and fans deserve a unique, branded bubbly to honor the occasion. Wine by Design is the creative force behind the 2018 and other championship wines that have commemorated historic World Series titles, such as the San Francisco Giants (2012 & 2014), Boston Red Sox (2013), Kansas City Royals (2015), Chicago Cubs (2016), Houston Astros, (2017), and now another for the Boston Red Sox (2018).

“This is our 7th year creating a Limited Edition World Series Sparkling with MLB to celebrate such a momentous occasion for baseball fans. We are fortunate to have found such a great partner in Rack and Riddle and are excited about adding a sparkling wine from one of the most prestigious wine-making regions in California to the Boston Red Sox Club Series lineup.” said Diane Karle, CEO, Wine by Design.

Rack & Riddle, one of the nation’s largest custom wine services, specializes in premium private-label sparkling wines. Their esteemed winemaking team, led by Penny Gadd-Coster, Executive Director of Winemaking, custom-blended the exclusive World Series Championship Brut to be a grand slam. Crafted in the true French Méthode Champenoise style, the wine is rich and complex with fine bubbles, highlighting premium grapes grown in California.

“This wine is truly worthy of repeat champions like the Boston Red Sox, with fresh fruit aromas of yellow delicious apple and citrus flower nuanced with tropical notes on the nose. The taste follows through with citrus that livens the palate—begging for another taste,” said Gadd-Coster. “The beauty of a well-balanced Brut like this is it pairs well with a variety of foods – from fresh oysters to fish & chips or the perfect greasy slice from your neighborhood pizzeria! It’s perfect for drinking now, and ages well so you can celebrate with bubbly for months to come.  Save a bottle to enjoy with a homemade Fenway dog on opening day next season!”

ABOUT WINE BY DESIGN

Wine by Design (WBD) is a marketing and management agency, and the leader in delivering wine-based strategic services and premium wine solutions. WBD provides tailored brand experiences, limited wine releases, events and consulting. By leveraging some of the world’s most recognized sports and entertainment franchises and utilizing an extensive network of winemakers and industry experts, Wine by Design has captured the professional sports fanbase that actively drinks wine. Wine by Design’s existing highlights include an exclusive wine license for all 30 Major League Baseball teams, the First Commissioned Commemorative Super Bowl Wine for SB50 and team-by-team deals in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.

For more information, please visit Wine by Design online at www.winebydesignco.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

ABOUT RACK & RIDDLE CUSTOM WINE SERVICES

With its expansion in 2014 to two new locations in Sonoma County, and the installation of a high-output automated production line, Rack & Riddle is proudly committed to providing pristine facilities where award-winning winemakers craft both still and sparkling wines. Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle, base-to-bottle, and private-label wine programs. Their facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually. To learn more, visit Rack & Riddle online at www.rackandriddle.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact:

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Faust
Business Development Manager
(707) 433-8400 x201
cynthia[at]www.rackandriddle.com

Sparkling Wine Grapes

Traditional Grape Varietals Vs. Untraditional for Sparkling Wine

Image: Tempranillo Grape Vines

Tempranillo Grape Vines

France set the standard for sparkling wine, establishing the widely-held belief that bubbly should be crafted out of just three stalwart grape varietals — Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. But California in recent years is setting a new scene for sparkling winemaking using untraditional grapes.

The most diverse varietals for sparkling are being made by small producers throughout California, and other regions like New York, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota and Washington are emerging as converts to this trend. We’re seeing Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and more from many of these states. In fact, we are doing a Muscat ourselves, for the Rack & Riddle Winery brand. These “untraditional” varietals result in wines that are unique, but still quality-wise just as good. Champagne, France is traditionally considered “above” these other regions and wines, but there isn’t really a good reason for it.

We have a limited perception of what sparkling wine should be, because French sparkling wine is what was originally imported to the United States, shaping consumers’ opinions early on. But at the same time that France was becoming renowned for Champagne, bubbly was being made in other countries as well, such as Spain, Portugal and Germany. None of the sparkling wines from those countries are made out of the traditional three varietals. Bubbly can be made anywhere, and out of completely different varietals depending on what grows best in the region.

Here at Rack & Riddle, we’ve made sparkling wine out of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Pinotage, Malbec, Syrah and various Italian varietals like Vecchio. If you have a new varietal you’d like to make into bubbly, contact us!

I’ll talk about two of my favorite sparkling wines made out of untraditional grapes. The first is French Colombard, a varietal that a lot of people pooh-pooh but that makes an excellent sparkling wine. The other is what I like to call the “Bordeaux bubbly” — a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. This was a wine we crafted that garnered an award at the California State Fair. What’s interesting about this blend is there’s something different about it that makes it special, but you wouldn’t necessarily identify it wasn’t made out of the traditional three varietals.

I highly encourage winemakers to experiment with new varietals. Whether that’s researching varietals to plant in your region and picking early specifically for sparkling, or utilizing grapes that don’t ripen — don’t let the grapes go to waste, make a sparkling!

There is really no varietal I would say “no” to for sparkling, unless the vineyard exhibits something you might not want in your bubbly. An example might be Sauvignon Blanc. Out of one vineyard it might be really tropical, which is really nice for sparkling, but out of another vineyard it might have a lot of herbaceousness that you don’t want. Some winemakers use Sauvignon Blanc even with that “herbalness,” — they’re willing to go in that direction, it’s just a matter of opinion.

Good luck with experimenting, and remember, don’t limit yourself. As they say — and what seems especially fitting for sparkling — “Reach for the sky and you’ll land among the stars!”

Check out Rack & Riddle’s full-service custom crush programs for both sparkling and still wines.

Contact Rack & Riddle anytime to discuss your needs: 707-433-8400

Rack & Riddle Automates Custom Crush Bottling Facilities to Increase Production and Boost Overall Efficiency

High-Output Bottling Line a Huge Upgrade, Doubling Production

Image — Rack & Riddle Still Wine Bottling LineHealdsburg, Calif (June 13, 2018) – Rack & Riddle, Wine Country’s leading custom crush wine service, has recently upgraded its facilities with a fully automated, state-of-the-art still wine bottling production line. The advanced robotic system now provides increased output and accuracy for its custom crush clientele.

Installed in late 2017, the bottling line designed by Mas Pack Packaging USA, is fully operational. All testing phases are complete, staff is trained, and the company has positioned itself for a high-yield 2018 crush season.

With the new system in place, production line staff was decreased from 13 techs per shift to 5, yet no jobs were lost in the process. Employees were cross-trained and reemployed in other positions within the company.

“We’re excited to provide a fully-automated bottling line, helping us to maintain Rack & Riddle’s position as an industry leader in the Custom Crush market. Leading-edge production technologies and outstanding quality control allow for maximum output and the highest of efficiencies for our valued clients,” says Mark Garaventa, General Manager at Rack & Riddle.

How the Bottling Line Works

The automated production system is fully customizable for each bottle run, handling 375ml, 500ml, and 750ml formats. It can process 150-bottles per minute and up to 6,000 cases in an 8-hour work shift – increasing efficiencies – without sacrificing the premium quality Rack & Riddle is known for.

The bottling line is staffed with a team of five skilled operators per shift, and each line has a dedicated quality control tech to ensure that the highest of standards are met. All wine chemistries and packaging are strictly monitored throughout each bottling run.

A sense of the process:

Fill Height and Closure System

Bottles are filled and scanned through a sophisticated Vision System which performs inspections of bottle fill height. The system then checks that filled bottles exiting this portion of production have corks or screw caps properly positioned. Any bottles not meeting requirements for fill height or missing proper closures are rejected, accumulated and audited by quality control personnel.

Label Inspection System

Once filled, foiled and labeled, four precision cameras capture 360-degree views of each bottle, inspecting for correct label information, placement, defects (such as wrinkles or air bubbles), doubled labels and flagged corners.

Packaging

The system can automatically separate bottles from cases, sending cases to an overhead conveyor and bottles into a filler. The Automatic Case Packer packs two 12-pack cases of wine at a time, seals the cases, weighs them, and rejects any that are underweight (missing bottles). Cases are tagged with ID labels then automatically palletized, based on a specific pallet configuration set by the operator for each run. Pallets are then wrapped for transport by an automatic wrapping mechanism, where a printed pallet ID tag is applied.

“Working with Rack & Riddle to install the newly automated bottling line was a rewarding experience for everyone. The Rack & Riddle team modified quickly to the new system, and the tech team and bottling line are running at maximum output,” says Alberto Migliardi, CEO of Mas Pack Packaging USA.

ABOUT RACK & RIDDLE CUSTOM WINE SERVICES

With its expansion in 2014 to two new locations in Sonoma County, and the installation of a high-output automated production line, Rack & Riddle is proudly committed to providing pristine facilities where award-winning winemakers craft both still and sparkling wines. Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle, base-to-bottle, and private-label wine programs. Their facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually. To learn more, visit Rack & Riddle online at www.rackandriddle.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact:

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Faust
Business Development Manager
(707) 433-8400 x201
cynthia[at]www.rackandriddle.com

Rack & Riddle Partners with Consultant in Reponse to Fast-Paced Expansion

French Méthode Champenoise Expert Jerome Barret Joins Rack & Riddle Team

Image — Jerome BarretHealdsburg, Calif. (January 18, 2018) — Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services, one of the nation’s largest winemaking operations specializing in sparkling wine and still wines, has brought on board a winemaking consultant in response to its fast-paced growth and recent facilities expansion.

Rack & Riddle has partnered with Jerome Barret, a consultant with over 20 years’ experience in Méthode Champenoise, the French style of sparkling winemaking Rack & Riddle is known for in the industry and with consumers. Barret will work alongside Rack & Riddle’s Director of Winemaking Penelope Gadd-Coster, who leads an in-house team of winemaking and operations staff members.

Barret, who hails from France and speaks three languages, “brings a world-wide perspective in the sparkling wine business with his expertise in global wines,” said Rack & Riddle Gadd-Coster.

“We’ve sought out Jerome’s expertise to assist our already amazing sparkling wine team to grow into the future and continue our leadership in the industry as a truly one-of-a-kind custom sparkling house.”

Barret’s experience ranges from cellar master to winemaker, and expert lecturer with the Institut Oenologique de Champagne, and has handled wine exports on four continents as well as large equipment investment budgets and line production design. He holds winemaking degrees from Reims University and Lycee Viticole d’Avize.

Founded in 2007, Rack & Riddle is a family-owned operation that has seen steady growth, expanding to two new locations in 2014 and more than doubling its case production in the past decade.

“Bringing on new talent like Jerome ensures we stay abreast of the latest technological advances in winemaking,” said Gadd-Coster. “Jerome’s unique blend of new world and old-world expertise aligns with our foundational techniques that have resulted in high-caliber wines for our clientele and the Rack & Riddle family of brands.”

Rack & Riddle offers services–from “grape to glass” or a la carte–to both large and small producers nationwide. Clients can make wines from grapes or base wine, or choose from a selection of private label sparkling wines.

ABOUT RACK & RIDDLE CUSTOM WINE SERVICES

With its expansion in 2014 to two new locations in Sonoma County, and the installation of a high-output automated production line, Rack & Riddle is proudly committed to providing pristine facilities where award-winning winemakers craft both still and sparkling wines. Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle, base-to-bottle, and private-label wine programs. Their facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually. To learn more, visit Rack & Riddle online at www.rackandriddle.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact:

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Faust
Business Development Manager
(707) 433-8400 x201
cynthia[at]www.rackandriddle.com

Wine by Design Releases Houston Astros 2017 World Series Championship Sparkling Wine

Image: Houston Astros 2017 World Series Championship BrutHealdsburg, Calif. (November 6, 2017) — To celebrate the Houston Astros World Series championship, Wine by Design, the exclusive wine licensee of Major League Baseball, is delivering a limitededition World Series Championship Brut with Rack & Riddle. Rack & Riddle, one of the largest custom wine operations nationwide specializing in sparkling wine, has created the Houston Astros World Series sparkling wine. Wine is available online and at select retail outlets. For more information, visit mlb.com/wine.

“This is our 6th year creating a Limited Edition World Series Sparkling with MLB. We are fortunate to have found such a great partner in Rack and Riddle to create a sparkling wine from one of the most prestigious winemaking regions in California for such a momentous occasion,” said Diane Karle, CEO, Wine by Design.

Wine by Design created championship wines to celebrate the victories of the San Francisco Giants (2012 & 2014), Boston Red Sox (2013), Kansas City Royals (2015) and Chicago Cubs (2016), each of which honored historic moments for those Clubs. This is the first World Series title in franchise history for the Houston Astros, making a truly momentous occasion for their fans.

“This wine is truly worthy of champions like the Houston Astros, with fresh fruit aromas of yellow delicious apple and citrus flower nuanced with tropical notes on the nose. The taste follows through with citrus that livens the palate—begging for another sip or two,” said Rack & Riddle Executive Director of Winemaking, Penny Gadd-Coster. “The beauty of a well-balanced Brut like this is it pairs well with a variety of foods – like World Series-worthy snacks of potato chips, mixed nuts and Spicy Wings! It’s perfect for drinking now, and ages well so you can celebrate with bubbly for months to come.”

The Houston Astros Championship Brut was crafted in the labor-intensive Méthode Champenoise tradition, and showcases premium grapes from California.

ABOUT WINE BY DESIGN

Wine by Design (WBD) is a marketing and management agency, and the leader in delivering
wine-based strategic services and premium wine solutions. With an extensive network of wine
experts, suppliers and winemakers, WBD provides targeted wine experiences, limited wine
releases, and consulting. Founded by Diane Karle, WBD has offices in New York and Napa
Valley, one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world, and home to many of its
industry’s leaders. Visit winebydesignco.com to learn more.

ABOUT RACK & RIDDLE CUSTOM WINE SERVICES

With its expansion in 2014 to two new locations in Sonoma County, and the installation of a high-output automated production line, Rack & Riddle is proudly committed to providing pristine facilities where award-winning winemakers craft both still and sparkling wines. Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle, base-to-bottle, and private-label wine programs. Their facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually. To learn more, visit Rack & Riddle online at www.rackandriddle.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact:

MEDIA CONTACT
Cynthia Faust
Business Development Manager
(707) 433-8400 x201
cynthia[at]www.rackandriddle.com

Tips for Sparkling Wine Production

GRAPE PICKING AND OTHER TIPS FOR SPARKLING WINE PRODUCTION

By Penny Gadd-Coster

Did you know that July is an ideal time to start thinking about turning grapes into sparkling wine?

Here at Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services, it’s not uncommon for some client winemakers to start planning a sparkling wine project after harvest. Sometimes it’s a last-minute decision by winemakers to utilize excess fruit.

While late-start projects are always welcome, it’s wise to begin planning your sparkling wine project earlier, since picking parameters differ greatly for sparkling wine production.

PICKING GRAPES — WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?

I while back, I read an interesting article by renowned wine writer, Dan Berger, about making sparkling wine. A few things occurred to me that I wanted to address regarding sparkling wine production and selecting the grapes:

In the article, one winemaker is quoted as saying that for still wines, you pick the grapes and they taste like wine, but for sparkling wine the grapes are sour and taste horrible since they’re picked earlier.
While it’s true sparkling wine grapes are picked much earlier at higher acidity levels, winemakers can have a real understanding of the grape profile at such an early stage.

If the fruit doesn’t taste good, it’s not going to make good bubbly. Is the acid high? Absolutely. But there’s definitely still fruit balance to evaluate. I recommend winemakers start tasting the grapes at 17 Brix and when you reach the flavor profile of the grapes that you want, pick them!

Now, the first time I made bubbles, the massive tartness took some getting used to. I definitely had some moments thinking, “Wow, it really takes the enamel off your teeth!” But once you start to learn what you’re looking for and the resulting profile in the finished product, I don’t find it any different from still wine — I’m just going for different parameters. As with still wine grapes, I’m still looking for a flavor acid profile. Ultimately, going through the same checklist as you would for a still wine, particularly a still white wine, which like bubbly is also elevated in Co2.

OTHER IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

Part of the challenge with sparkling wine grapes is evaluating how the bubbles are going to affect the flavor outcome — the Co2 will bring the flavors up in the nose and mouth and make it more aromatic.

Another consideration is how the lees contact will soften the wine a little bit, and change the aroma profile with time. It doesn’t change the acidity, but it will change the mouthfeel. How the yeast is perceived in the nose changes with time going from fresh yeast to nutty. This is another reason acidity is important to balance out the creaminess that you will get with long-term yeast contact. Before you pick, consider how long you want the wine on the yeast. Learn when to pick your grapes for sparkling wine, and how to prep the base wine for sparkling wine production.

Be cognizant of So2 levels because of the second fermentation. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “at what level should the So2 be kept?” Due to the high pH/acidity levels, you can keep those levels low because it protects the wine. The level I recommend is 15 to 20 ppm, as long as the wine is not going to be stored for many months or years before it goes on tirage; the totals should be kept at 50 ppm or below.

With all of these special considerations to make when picking sparkling wine grapes, one big benefit of picking early — as Dan mentions in his article— is many of the common later-harvest problems can be avoided, such as bad weather, mold and possible bacterial issues.

If you decide later in harvest to produce a sparkling wine project, which some people do, you’re not only up against these weather-related problems, but de-alc’ing may also be necessary to remove some of the alcohol — a process that winds up costing time and money.

COLD-STABILIZING YOUR BASE WINE

Lastly, here at Rack & Riddle when clients bring their base wine in to start making bubbly (typically base wine is brought in around January or February), they can opt to bring it in cold-stabilized, or we will cold-stabilize it for them. Because sparkling winemaking is a process involving second fermentation in the bottle, we always recommend ultra cold-stabilizing the wine since the chemistries are going to change in the bottle. Once the wine is a finished product and sold, it’s likely to be stored in a refrigerator — another reason it’s important that the wine is stable — zero-minus-two centigrade.

Consider these parameters for prepping your sparkling wine, and you’ll be on your way to creating an incredible bubbly — and we can all raise our glasses in a toast to that!

Have questions about sparkling winemaking? Give me, Head Winemaker, Manveer Sandhu, or the Rack & Riddle Business Development Team a call at 707-433-8400. We’re happy to help.

HOW TO PREP YOUR BASE WINE JUST RIGHT FOR A SPARKLING WINE PROJECT

TIPS FOR PICKING

  • Taste grapes in the vineyard for flavor profile
  • Pick at 17-20 Brix
  • pH 2.9 to 3.2
  • TA 0.9 to 1.2

TIPS FOR BASE WINE

  • 11% is the preferred alcohol precentage for the wine coming in
  • We aim for the finished product to be no more than 12.5% to 13% range
  • 3.0 to 3.2 pH is the ideal for traditional bubbles

How Sparkling Wine is Made

Why and How We Make Méthode Champenoise California Sparkling Wine

Refreshing and invigorating, sparkling wine is becoming increasingly popular across the United States. Everyone from Millennials to Boomers are reaching for the bubbles. With people indulging everyday and not just for special occasions, wineries today recognize that serving a glass of bubbly to patrons as they walk through the door creates the ultimate sense of celebration and welcoming.

Sparkling wine, with its fine mousse and finish that begs for another sip, is especially appealing to consumers because it pairs well with virtually any food. My personal favorite is pairing bubbly with caviar on potato chips with crème fraiche — yum!

A Popular and Profitable Commodity

Production of bubbly is ramping up at wineries nationwide, and so are sales. In fact, bubbly sales are driving the growth of the U.S. wine market. For more than a decade, the sector has outperformed still wines, as reported by several media outlets.

Our client, Paso Robles-based Mooney Family Wines, says of the winery’s impetus behind venturing into sparkling winemaking, “We started our sparkling program due to the demand created when we began doing weddings at the estate winery. The feedback to our Mooney Family Blanc de Noirs has been great, particularly from the ladies,” said owner, Michael Mooney.

Sparkling Wine — A Labor of Love

While sommeliers and wine buffs have still wines seemingly figured out, there is still some mystery in sparkling wines. The time, labor and specialized processes behind sparkling winemaking dwarf that of still winemaking — and so few people specialize in it — that sparkling winemaking remains a rather enigmatic category of wine.

In fact, it took me a couple of years being a winemaker before that “ah hah” moment when I didn’t have to figure out how and when the bubbles came to be! I remember as a winemaker early in my career taking a bottle fresh off the disgorging line and worrying, “Are the bubbles going to be there?” The answer is of course, yes — the bubbles are born in the bottle when you put the yeast in, and they remain there in the bottle.

The short of it: sparkling winemaking is a true labor of love. The movies make it look simple, with someone quaintly twisting the bottles on an old wooden French riddling rack, but the answer is, well, it’s not quite that easy. There is much hard work behind every bottle.

Each process of sparkling winemaking has its own intricacies, such as disgorging — the process of freezing the lees (sediments) in the neck, and having it pop out of the bottle. Disgorging isn’t used in still winemaking at all. Tiny details must be monitored, such as how big the ice plug is, making sure it’s not concave, and mitigating gushing when the crown cap is pulled off and too much wine pours out of the bottle (much like when you pop the cork on a bottle that is still too warm, and the wine overflows out of the neck).

How It’s Made at Rack & Riddle

If you’ve ever been curious about what’s behind your glass of bubbly, here’s a practical guide to sparkling wines crafted in the traditional French method:

  1. First thing’s first: Look at the label. When sparkling wine is produced in the traditional method, sparkling wine houses will want to tout the age-old methodology to their customers. The wine label will typically state “Methode Champenoise,” “Methode Traditionelle,” or “Traditional Method.” They cannot state “Champagne” unless it is made in the Champagne region of France.
  2. Sparkling wine grapes are picked earlier than their still wine grape counterparts to maintain high acidity and low sugars—typically at 17-20 brix. Traditionally in France, sparkling wine grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay—this is what most of the United States follows. Many other varietals can be blended to create bubbly as done in other areas of France and the surrounding countries. Many sparkling wines are non-vintage. This blending of different varietals from different years allows a sparkling wine to maintain a consistent profile year after year, regardless of what the last harvest produced quality-wise.
  3. In the vineyard, certain data is collected at harvest time: total tons, yield per acre, average clusters per vine and average cluster weight—just as one would do with still wine grapes.
  4. The grapes are whole cluster pressed. Different fractions are taken—cuvee, taille, rebeche—at certain pressures during the pressing cycle. After the grapes are pressed, additions like SO2, Bentonite and for non-organic wines, enzymes may be added to the juice, which then goes into settling tanks. Analysis occurs along the whole process: Brix, TA, pH, and So2 levels.
  5. After the juice is racked and ready for the fermenting tanks, pre-fermentation analysis takes place; once fermenting, daily checks are taken of brix and temperature.
  6. Once the first fermentation has occurred, the wine undergoes post-fermentation analysis, including tests of TA, pH, F/T, So2, Malic, residual sugar, VA, and alcohol. Wine goes through centrifuge or is settled and racked then into storage tanks. So2 additions are made, though at lower levels than many still wines. Free and total So2, and VA monitoring are monthly.
  7. Assemblage blending (if being blended with other wines) now takes place to blend different varietals and fractions—cuvee and taille—together. The wine is cold stabilized and crossflow filtered. Additions at this point include sugar and yeast nutrient, possibly tannin or gum for retaining color in rosé. Then the wine goes through a final membrane filter at 0.45u.
  8. Here is where the wine goes from being treated like a still wine and goes into sparkling mode. A yeast culture is introduced to the wine as well as an adjuvant (riddling agent bentonite). The wine with yeast and adjuvant is ‘tirage bottled’ into wooden bins where it then rests on its side in the bottle.
  9. The second fermentation occurs in the bottle, taking anywhere from one to three months. This is when the bubbles are created. Aging on the yeast (lees) takes place and lasts at least six months to years, depending on the style desired.
  10. The wine is transferred with shaking (to release the yeast from the bottle) to riddling bins where it settles. Bins are put into the riddling machines where riddling takes place from three to seven days. This is where the yeast ends up in the neck of the bottle along with the bentonite. The bottles are allowed to rest as they are active (just like shaking up a soft drink can). This entire process takes three to four weeks.
  11. The bottles are then placed in a neck freezer and then disgorged. Disgorging is the process of the yeast lees being released out of the bottle in the frozen ‘plug’. Dosage (optional) can be added at that time. The dose can be anything from sugar water to sugar and brandy or in some cases color can be added to the wine via a wine sugar mixture.
  12. Wines are then corked, wirehooded, foiled, labeled and ready to ship! Remember though that the bottles have been through trauma and should be allowed to rest before consuming.

The sparkling process may take a little longer, well maybe a lot longer, than many still wines, but it is well worth it to have and share the bubbly experience!

—Penny Gadd-Coster, Executive Director of Winemaking