Here’s how sparkling wine is made

How 44 million bubbles get in the bottle
Sparkling wine

More than 44 million bubbles are in a bottle of sparkling wine, according to Wine & Spirits Magazine. If there are 44 million bubbles in a bottle, that means there are approximately 7,333,333 per glass. How’s that for a bubbly, fun wine fact? Throw it out at Happy Hour to dazzle your friends the next time you order a glass of sparkling. And, in case you’re curious, I’m going to give you a brief overview of the sparkling wine making process.

BTW: SPARKLING IS NOT JUST FOR CELEBRATIONS. Do not wait for New Year’s. You should enjoy Sparkling wine year-round. (Which is why I started this interlude by-the-way paragraph off by yelling in all caps.) You should order a glass of sparkling the next time you go to Happy Hour. Also to note: the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine is simply the region in which it is produced. (as long as it is made in the champagne method, methode champenoise.)

see also: the best sparkling wines to try

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Sparkling wine at Gloria Ferrer

Champagne and sparkling wine are a combination of three grape varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. First, the winemaker blends the wine. Then, it’s time for the second fermentation. Carbon dioxide creates bubbles during this stage. The wine ages (usually at least 15 months, but Dom Perignon ages 6-8 years). Next, it’s time to get the sediment out of the bottle. There is no genie in the bottle to make this happen.

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Riddling Rack at Gloria Ferrer

Champagne riddling process

When someone mentions”the riddler” in relation to wine, it’s not in reference to Batman’s foe. It’s referring to the riddling process that assists in getting the sediment out of the bottle.

Wine Spectator explains, “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.”

Centuries ago, riddlers turned the bottles by hand. Now, machines take care of the process. Some wineries still incorporate this process and use hand-riddlers. These guys turn the bottle in order to move the sediment to the neck of the bottle. Get this: a professional riddler can turn 50,000 bottles per day. (Perhaps Riddlers do have super hero qualities!)

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Sediment Plug

Most wineries use machines for the riddling process.  The sediment relocates to the neck of the bottle. The next step is to flash freeze it to make it removable. Kevin Zraly notes about this step, “out fly the frozen sediments, propelled by the carbon dioxide.” Then the winemaker adds some ingredients called the dosage (pronounced do-s-ah-j). This is a mix of sugar and wine, which can make the wine sweet or dry. Finally, it’s time to re-cork the wine!

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How to pour sparkling wine to keep the bubbles

The traditional method is to pour straight into the glass. However, NPR recommends tilting your glass preserves more of the bubbles.

Cheers!

We learned a lot about sparkling wine and the process on our Napa & Sonoma vacations the past few years. Also, Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course is an excellent resource for all things wine.

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13 Comments

  1. 4.25.15
    Jen said:

    What great information! I had no idea about the riddling process.We have a couple of bottles of sparkling wine that I’ve been saving for some reason. I think we need to break them out tomorrow afternoon 😉

  2. 4.25.15
    Elizabeth said:

    Thanks for sharing! I love sparkling wine (and champagne, too). My current favorite is Clairette de Die.

    • 4.25.15

      We will have to check that one out! Our go to favorite is Gloria Ferrer’s sonoma brut.

  3. 4.26.15

    I spotted your post on #SITSBlogging and it stood out because it’s packed with useful information. I’m a big wine fan and it was a really interesting read