“Antique of the Week”: Riddling Rack

For those of you who know me well, you know that my drink of choice is definitely champagne! I have a terrible weakness for anything to do with champagne…antique glasses, books, and I am particularly fascinated by champagne riddling racks!

north carolina interior designer kathryn greeley presents riddling racks

north carolina interior designer kathryn greeley presents riddling racks

It should not surprise any of us that I would love something that is a celebratory beverage and one that is very labor intensive to make!  Bottles of new champagne are stored on their sides in deep cellars in Champagne, France.  This wine is stored “sur lie, or on the lees (the dead yeast cell and sediments trapped in the bottle).  This aging process creates champagne’s texture and the complexity of its bouquet.  The amount of time champagne spends sur lie bears a direct correlation to its quality… the longer the aging, the more complex the bubbly.

north carolina interior designer kathryn greeley presents riddling racks

Riddling racks are critical to the process of making Champagne.  After the sparkling wine has aged on the lees or it’s yeast, it is ready to be finished. Riddling is the process that collects the yeast and sediment in a bottle and concentrate it near the mouth of the bottle.  After initial fermentation in the bottle, the bottles are inclined at a 45-degree angle on a riddling rack, which is made up of two simple rectangular boards hinged at the top.  Each side consists of bored holes.  Over a period of weeks, on a daily basis, the riddler rotates every bottle a few degrees, which is an art unto itself.  At the same time he raises the bottle’s bottom slightly, lowering the neck maybe a centimeter or two each.  After a few weeks bottles that started at  a 45-degree angle are now slanted to a 60-degree angle and are neck-down in their holes.  After riddling is complete, the champagne bottles are then placed in a sub-zero solution for several minutes forming an ice plug made of the spent yeast and sediment in the necks.  Ultimately these ice plugs with the frozen sediment are disgorged. Doesn’t this process sound romantic??

north carolina interior designer kathryn greeley presents riddling racks

Several years ago, I purchased this riddling rack (below), where we store some wine at our lake house.

north carolina interior designer kathryn greeley presets antique riddling rack

Most riddling racks are made from solid French white oak, the same material from which the barrel cooper would construct the wine barrels. I love these being used for wine storage and you can also remove the hinges and the racks can be positioned on furring strips for mounting on the wall to create a unique backdrop for your wine room.  My particular riddling rack is circa late 1800.  If you are interested in an antique riddling rack, know your antique dealer, as there are lots of newly made ones out in the market!

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5 Responses to “Antique of the Week”: Riddling Rack

  1. Renee says:

    I am learning so much from your posts! Thank you for this most interesting post about riddling racks.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Thanks! I love hearing that you are enjoying the post and learning some new information about such fun subjects!

  3. Franki Parde says:

    “Salute!!” franki

  4. Kellee says:

    There is definately a lot to find out about this subject.

    I really like all the points you made.

  5. Kathryn says:

    Thanks Kellee!

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