Posted: 19 Nov 2010 03:36 AM PST
Sabreing champagne, or Sabrage as it's called in French, is nothing if not spectacular.
Slashing off the entire top of the bottle with a blow from a short sword or sabre certainly gets peoples' attention at a party or champagne reception.
As the sabreur holds the bottle above his head for maximum effect and minimum risk of flying glass and wields his sabre there's often as gush of champagne jetting out from the severed neck of the bottle in a bubbly plume of champagne.
As you can imagine it's a trick best left to those who know what they're doing and not to be attempted at home. Besides it's not as easy as it used to be. Let me explain...
Sabrage supposedly caught on amongst the hussars in Napoleon's army back in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Napoleon and his army frequently stopped in Champagne on the way to one battle or another and it's not hard to imagine them stocking up on champagne and opening a few bottles there and then with a sabre to impress any young lady who caught their eye or just for the hell of it.
The trick with sabrage is to slide the sabre smartly down the slide of the bottle so as to seperate the top of the bottle from the rest of the neck just at the point where there is a ridge around the neck. Look at this picture and you'll see what I mean
The more pronounced the ridge, the less likely the sabre is to slip over the ridge and the more likely you are to get a good clean break. If you look at the bottle on the left you'll clearly see that the ridge is much more pronounced than on the right-hand bottle so the left-hand one would be easier to sabre.
A smart sabreur would always look for a bottle with a good solid ridge, but there's the problem because they just don't make them like that any more.
The bottle on the left is a bottle of Moët & Chandon Vintage 1953 (lucky me) whilst the right-hand bottle is a bottle of Henriet-Bazin Vintage 2002. In 50 years champagne bottles have not only got lighter but the design has changed too.
So if you fancy trying your hand at Sabrage it will be easier with an older bottle, but if you're lucky enough to own a rare old vintage champagne, would you really want to risk opening it with a sabre?
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