Champagne is one of the most popular and certainly the most exclusive liquors in the world. No wonder that its consumption is accompanied by many different rituals. One of the most interesting of these is sabrage, i.e. opening a bottle of champagne with … saber. Where did this custom come from and when is it practiced? Where can you see that show?
When asked about what alcohol seems to us the most exclusive and suitable for special occasions, most of us would most likely choose champagne. This unique sparkling wine is for us a synonym of luxury, wealth and hedonism. One of the reasons it stands out so much is the original way of its production. It should be noted that the rules for the production of champagne are very restrictive – only their strict adherence allows to determine the wine with this name. Most of us use the name “Champagne” for all wines with bubbles, but it is actually an abuse. In order to be able to really talk about champagne, it must come from a specific region (including Champagne), and the production process itself must follow the so-called traditional method, also called champagne. Everything is important: from the density of the vines, through its manual harvest, to the course of the fermentation process. The latter is divided into two stages: the first takes place in special barrels, the second takes place after adding yeast and sugar to the liquid, already in bottles. In this way, not only alcohol is created, but also famous bubbles. This is one of the basic differences between real champagne and cheaper sparkling wines that are artificially saturated with carbon dioxide. Interestingly, at the beginning of its existence, champagne was not very appreciated because of the famous bubbles and the high pressure in the vessels caused by them. It often led to the explosion of a bottle, which could cause avalanche explosions of another champagnes in the collection. For this reason, the famous liquor was then called the “cork shooter” or “devil’s wine”. Fortunately, the dishes in which champagne is stored have been significantly improved and are now much more durable, so you can have them at home without fear of an uncontrolled explosion. The pressure prevailing in the bottles, however, has not changed – it is still 5-6 atmospheres, which is twice as much as in a car tire. This is why the corks so characteristically “shoot” – released corks can reach a speed of 40 km/h!
This property is the basis of a habit called sabrage. Interestingly, it was invented by the Napoleonic cavalrymen. The famous emperor was a great fan of champagne. He and his wife, Josephine were often in the pavilions and orangery belonging to Jean-Rémy Moët, the grandson of the founder of the famous champagne house Moët & Chandon. Napoleon also liked to drink some of the famous wine with his soldiers before setting out for the battle. “For the winners, deserved, for the defeated, indispensable” – he used to say about this unique drink. Both then and when they wanted to impress a lady, the soldiers liked to open bottles with their weapons. This is how the sabrage custom arose – its name refers to the saber, known in French as “un sabre”.
Currently, specially designed, blunt tools are used for the sabrage. They do not have to be too sharp – the right technique and the high pressure in the bottle are enough to succeed. Thanks to this, sabrage masters use not only long sabers and relatively short knives, but also even … skis. The shows including the latter, atypical tricks are held, among others in the mountains, at parties for winter sports enthusiasts.
To open a bottle of champagne using the sabrage method, make sure it has been properly chilled – the best way to achieve this is to place the bottle upside down in a bucket filled with ice. We start the process by removing the foil and wire cork cover. The “weak point” of the neck is the place where the bottle was welded. To open it in a spectacular way, put a saber on the bottle and move it towards the neck. The impact breaks off the part of the neck, which effectively glides along with a cork, and part of the champagne spills out, removing possible shards of the vessel. Of course, even watching some tutorials will not make us sabrage masters, so it’s better not to try this trick at home. If you want to see live sabrage, it is worth going to a special show or … for dinner at the Bubbles restaurant in Warsaw. Just order a bottle of champagne and ask for a saber. The staff will ensure that everything is safe and you will be able to take the cork in a special box as a souvenir. Bubbles is a unique place where the famous “bubbly” is served not only for exquisite dishes, but also for completely ordinary, everyday meals. The philosophy of the bar is to prove that each of us deserves a bit of luxury every day, and each day can be an opportunity to grace it with the glass of champagne – also one opened with a saber!