Sabrage – How to open Champagne with a sword

19th November 2013

Sabrage - How to open Champagne with a sword

For many of us it will all be about the excitement of untwisting the cage and popping the cork of that Champagne / sparkling wine bottle, but there is another way! It dates back to the Napoleonic era when victories were often celebrated with a Champagne sabrage where the bottle is opened by sliding along the body a sword to break the entire neck away to unleash the fizz.

I have now opened many bottles of Champagne this way, it depends on my mood, location and usually who I am going to be drinking with, a party trick maybe, though also a traditional way that enhances the whole tasting experience.

I heave heard many people say to me that it is on their bucket list to open a bottle of Champagne that way and I am pleased to have helped many of them to strike this wish off their list. It will not be confined to having to carry around a sabre/sword, I have sabered with the likes of heavy knives, fork handles, edge of a stone from the garden, hammer head and more.

Can you saber any sparkling wine is a question I usually get asked – The answer I give, though please do your own research, is that you are better using traditional method wines such as Champagne / Cava / Franciacorta over Charmat methods such as Prosecco as there is less slightly less pressure in the bottles.

I certainly do advise to take care and precautions when considering to saber a bottle of Champagne as there are many things to consider and I will add that I have seen at events I have attended cuts and bruises due to sabering:

  • Do not saber inside unless you have a clear open space and have no possessions you’d like to protect.
  • Do not point the bottle at someone else though there is no guarantee that in what direction you aim the bottle is the way in which the sabered end of the bottle will travel.
  • Bottles can explode when sabering and cause cuts to hands and splinters can travel out to those around you.
  • If you have an expensive bottle then I advise not to saber as if the bottle explodes you will lose the wine in the bottle!

Tips for Sabering:

  • Hold the neck of the bottle  at an angle of 20-30 degrees.
  • Use the blunt side of an object when sabering.
  • Identify the vertical seam of the bottle which is the weaker point and is where you should be sliding your object on towards the bottle neck.
  • Firmly and quickly slide your object towards the neck of the bottle to form a clean strike.
  • Repeat the process is first time you do not exceed.
  • Think about holding the bottle with gloves / a cloth and wearing safety glasses.
  • Make sure that any spectators are at a distance.

Sabering is popular globally and many Champagne houses will have a dedicated person to saber, there are clubs and societies for sabering. You can also remind yourself of the risk of sabering by checking Youtube!

So far, 32 is the most Champagne bottles sabered in one minute by Julio Chang in Marbella, Spain in 2011. The greatest number of Champagne bottles sabered simultaneously was achieved by 196 participants at a Champagne festival in Brazil also in 2011.

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.