My Métier d’Excellence
I’m a Riddler-Cellar Worker at Maison Ruinart. My job is to move the champagne bottles after fermentation to gently push the sediment to the neck of the bottle so it can be removed from the bottle, or disgorged. This is actually more complicated than it sounds, because although most of the sediment goes down when you turn the bottle, some of it, the “light sediment” remains stuck to the sides. So what I do is turn the bottles to release this “light sediment” and eject it. To do this I have to “read” the champagne by candlelight, inspecting the bottles closely to determine where the sediment is and how they need to be rotated. This bottle turning, known as “riddling”, is mainly done by hand, but can also be automated. I test all the cuvées and different types of bottles to program the riddling to be done by machine.
The most important things you need for this métier
You have to be motivated because this work requires a lot of attention to detail and concentration in quite a unique environment, the chalk pits and cellars 40 meters underground. I really love this environment, being surrounded by all these bottles in total silence. You also need a lot of curiosity to go beyond simply inspecting the wines and turning the bottles. For example, each month I tour the cellars to check the champagnes and the appearance of the sediment. This gives me information to plan the next steps in my work. Plus of course you need to be very meticulous and communicate with colleagues, because each stage in champagne production follows on from the others.
What I love most about my métier
I really like the autonomy and freedom I have in the daily execution of my work. This lets my fellow riddler and I make decisions and then carry them out ourselves. It’s very fulfilling to be able to do your work from start to finish, although we are of course constantly in contact with the entire team, since this is a collective effort.
Each year Ruinart collaborates with an artist who revisits the codes of the Maison, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with several of them, including Liu Bolin, who left the strongest impression on me. He shoots photos where he’s a sort of chameleon, blending into the surroundings. He spent a week with us and wanted all the Ruinart employees to be in the photos with him. It was an incredible experience that showcased both the place where we work and ourselves. I was really involved that week – I even had to strip down to my underwear for the staging of one of his shoots!