The art of sabrage
Wine n' Culture
The art of sabrage

Article by Alexander Eeckhout

Adieu mes chéries! Shouted madame Clicquot as seventeen of Napoleon’s officers rode off her property, champagne bottles in one hand, sabres in the other. After Napoleon had said that one deserves champagne in success and needs it in defeat, his officers, good soldiers as they were, followed suit and decided to go drink some champagne and keep the young widow company.

Eager to impress madame Clicquot, the soldiers got creative. Although a hilarious impression of Napoleon’s hat was one of the better party tricks, the one that survived the ages was the noble art of sabrage. The cavalrymen used their sabres to open champagne bottles, celebrating their victories on horseback.

champagne sabre and art of sabrageCrafty swordsmen you’d say. They were definitely clever enough to realise that the pressure inside a bottle of champagne is so strong that a little tap suffices to have the top flying off. In the early days bottles of champagne were even known to explode on their own without the help from cavalrymen nor their sabres. Subsequently champagne bottles were made a little thicker but the art of sabrage survived this and the ages.

So do I need to be a cavalryman or woman to do this at home? The good new is you don’t. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.

What you’ll need is a champagne sabre or any flat blunt object and a bottle of sparkling wine that was produced by méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle. Other sparkling wines don’t pack enough pressure to pull off the trick.

The idea is not to slice or cut the glass but rather hit it right under the lip. This will make a tiny fracture in the glass. The pressure does the rest of the work, popping the top of the bottle off.

Open champagne with a kitchen knifeMake sure your bottle is as cold as possible. Remove the foil and the cage. Hold the bottle in an angle of about 30 degrees with the seam of the bottle facing you and the cork pointing away from you. The point where the seam meets the lip is the weakest point of the bottle and that’s where you’ll hit it. Put the edge of the sword in a 45 degree angle just on the point where the bulky body grows into the slender neck. Then you just slide along the seam and hit it right on the lip of the bottle and swing through. There’s no need for a lot of power, travel your blade of choice quickly down the neck and you’ll see the top flying.

It goes without saying that you should point the bottle towards a less populated area. Another safety measure is to check the first glass you poured for any shards. Although the pressure should have broken the top off clean and there should be none.

Even though you can perform this trick with a basic kitchen knife, the point of this party trick is spectacle. So all that is left for you to do is scour the internet for some cool champagne swords. Sabre away my dear friends.