Why do you saber champagne when you could just pop the cork off with your hand? It’s a bit like asking why some people choose to get married in a fancy wedding when they could just go down to the courthouse and get their marriage certificate.
People saber champagne because it is a unique and fun way to open a champagne bottle. While it’s not necessary, sabering adds a touch of theater, ceremony and class to any celebration.
This tradition dates back to the Napoleon era, where soldiers would sabre the top off a bottle of champagne in celebration. Today, champagne sabering is enjoyed as a fun party trick that adds excitement to any festivity.
In this article, I’ll cover the history of sabering champagne, why people do it today, and the difference between sabering and opening a bottle.
Where Champagne Sabers Originally Started
The history here is admittedly a bit murky. There are many legends and myths surrounding the invention of champagne sabrage.
What most people agree on is that champagne sabering first gained popularity in the early 1800’s among the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars that eventually followed the French revolution.
Opening Champagne Bottles On Horseback
After winning a battle, it was customary to celebrate with champagne, and the soldiers would remove the cork with their sabers or swords. At the time, champagne corks were often capped with wax and sometimes rope, which took more time and effort to remove. Because Napoleon’s light cavalry fought and traveled by horseback, using a saber to quickly knock the neck of the top of the bottle of champagne was not only practical but added to the celebration.
According to stories, as the army passed through towns on their way home from victory in battle, the people would hand or throw them bottles of champagne which they could open quickly while continuing their journey. Other legends claim that Napoleon’s army would saber open bottles to impress Madame Clicquot (the famous champagne leader who helped grow the Veuve Cliquot champagne house to wide fame).
Why Saber Champagne Today?
Today, people saber champagne mainly because it’s fun.
Sabering open champagne is not only exciting to watch, but it also adds a climactic moment to the overall experience of celebrating. The theater of preparing the saber and the sound of the cork popping off creates a sense of excitement and anticipation that you don’t get with the everyday method of opening the bottle.
Some people believe that sabering champagne creates less fizz, allowing for a smoother pour. Some even claim that removing the cork using a sabre enhances the flavors of the champagne by allowing excess gas to escape. But personally, I haven’t seen any science that really supports either of these theories.
In reality, today sabering champagne is still enjoyed mainly as an art form and tradition, and is typically done at special events such as weddings, New Year’s Eve, or anniversaries.
Sabering Champagne Vs. Opening a Champagne Bottle
While sabering is an impressive feat, some people (validly) argue that it is not technically the best way to open a bottle.
Removing the champagne cork by hand is certainly safer and more practical, and if you’re careful you can be sure to not spill a drop of champagne when opening by hand. With sabering, you’re going to lose at least a little bit of your champagne so you may not want to do it on a super rare or expensive bottle.
However, if done correctly, sabering champagne is safe and can be a fun and memorable activity for celebrations. It’s essential to keep in mind that sabering a champagne bottle is a technique that requires practice, so it’s best to leave it to the experts or practice on a few low cost bottles ahead of an important event if you’re unsure about your technique.
Choosing a Champagne Saber or Champagne Sword
When choosing a champagne saber (also spelled champagne sabre), there are a few things to consider.
First, make sure that the blade is sharp and high-quality stainless steel. A dull blade can cause the cork to shatter, which can lead to injury.
Additionally, a good champagne saber should not be too heavy or too light; the weight should fit comfortably in your hand and evenly distributed for safety and ease of use.
Learn How to Saber Champagne
Before sabering champagne, ensure that the bottle is chilled to the appropriate temperature, and the foil has been removed. Any sparkling wine in a champagne-style bottle should work, although naturally I recommend you to drink champagne instead.
To saber the champagne, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and locate the seam where the bottle meets the lip. Then, find a vertical line on the bottle that runs from the seam to the top. This is where you’ll want to position the blade of the saber.
Next, slide the saber along the bottle’s neck, firmly tapping the lip to expose the cork, and watch it fly!
Pro tip: Typically, the force of the pressure inside should push out any shattered glass at the moment the glass bottle neck breaks, leaving the champagne in the bottle safe to drink.
However, once the cork is removed, it’s good practice to pour out a little champagne around the neck of the bottle to ensure any glass shards are removed before pouring into your guest’s champagne flute.
Sabering champagne is a unique and fun way to add excitement to any occasion worth celebrating. While it’s not necessary to use champagne sabres to open a complimentary bottle, it creates a classic experience that is enjoyable to watch and participate in.
Remember, practice is key! It’s important to learn how to saber champagne correctly and work in a clear area to avoid injury or accidents. Overall, if you’re looking to impress your guests with an impressive party trick or add a touch of glamor to a special occasion, opening champagne bottles with a saber is sure to do the trick.