Champagne educator Amanda Reboul drinks a lot of champagne (professionally of course!). Sometimes, she opens them like the rest of us, removing the foil and the wire cage before easing the cork out with (hopefully), a gentle pop.
But at others times, she takes a gold-hilted ceremonial sword from its case and simply strikes the top of the bottle and cork right off.
Amanda is a Chavalier-Sabreur, a Dame Knight of Sabrage, an order bestowed on her in 2001 by French organisation La Confrerie du Sabre’ d’Or (The Brotherhood of the Golden Sabre.) Since she first learned the noble art in Chantilly in 1999 she estimates she’s sabered ‘hundreds if not thousands’ of bottles. It may be an ancient art, but sabering is becoming increasingly popular way to celebrate an occasion with flair and drama.
“There are some people who say sabrage is the only way to open a bottle,” Amanda says. “But, any big festivity is perfect – a wedding, graduation, birthday, anniversary or birth of a child.”
There are a few legends about the origins of the sabrage. One says that during the Napoleonic war it was considered a service to their country for people to house the French soldiers as they crossed the country on horseback. When the soldiers passed through Champagne, they would stay at the bigger champagne houses, because they had enough room to lodge them. The widow Clicquot was considerd very beautiful and the soldiers would try to impress her as they rode off for the day. She would give them a ration of a bottle each upon leaving, and the soldiers would take the sword from it’s scabbard and knock the top of the bottle off.
Less romantic, but sounding more likely, is that the cellar master would stand at the bottom of the stairs down to the cellars and sabre bottles towards the enemies coming down to raid the cellars. A flying cork and broken glass is a very effective defence mechanism!
Don’t Try This at Home
The most dangerous part of sabering is making sure no one is in the line of fire when the glass neck and cork fly (the latter can travel at around 100km per hour). The saber used is actually blunt (it’s about how and where you strike rather than ‘cutting’ the bottle,) and the internal pressure (100 psi) of the bottle always ensures that no glass falls back into the bottle making it safe for consumption. Having said that, we don’t recommend that you attempt sabering a bottle unless you’ve been properly taught.
Want a Learn How?
If you’re coming to Effervescence (August 13, 2017), just buy a bottle of your choice from our champagne cave on the day and bring it to the allotted sabering area (check the program in your gift bag for times). Amanda will demonstrate sabering and you can have a go with your own bottle.
Once you’ve mastered sabering, you might want to buy your own saber. You can get one here: www.thetruffleman.com.au/champagne-sabre-wood-inlay-hilt/
Imported from a master cutler in France, they are works of art and cost $525