Thursday, June 01, 2023
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Champagne Sabrage - Kiss of the Butterknife

Wine Industry

Opening a bottle of Champagne with a saber can have a fairly invigorating and dramatic effect.

It's important to have the bottle quite cold. The person opening the bottle removes the foil and wire cage around the cork, holds the bottle around the base at a 30-45 degree angle, aims for the spot on the bottleneck where the vertical seam meets the lower glass lip (where the cork is), slides the saber (flat) along the body of the bottle (along the seam) towards the end of the neck. Be certain to angle the bottle away from people, food, or anything breakable, as the top will sever and head for the hills. The force of the saber hitting the bottle lip severs the glass, separating the collar from the neck of the bottle. After shooting off, the cork and collar hopefully remain together after the bottle is opened. It should sever a nice, clean, break in the glass (be aware of the possibility of the bottle shattering! Champagne sabering is dangerous and requires attention). The strength of an actual Champagne Saber or the back edge of a heavy chef's knife makes it easier, but obviously as this short footage of Karen Blackburn and Kevin Pike shows, a fork or a butterknife sometimes work, too.

It's important to be confident and use force in the saber sliding and to "follow through", like tennis, baseball, or golf. The broken glass does not get into the bottle with a clean break because the pressure is too strong and carries broken bits away. Odd-shaped bubbly bottles might not work. Newbies tend to lose a small glassful of bubbly on opening. Even the best sabrage addicts will lose a little juice. Practice makes perfect.

Note to self: it doesn't always work out so pretty, so be careful! Definitely a fun conversation piece, though...

On a side note... In October ('09), Gary Vaynerchuk posted an episode (#756) of Wine Library TV with Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan experimenting with decanting Champagne. At the end of the episode, the two of them sabered a Champagne bottle with a Laguiole Champagne Saber. It's a fun episode and worth watching.

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