The History of Champagne Sabrage

“Sabering” describes the art of opening a wine bottle with a sword and requires great skill to accomplish successfully. Legend says that Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers were the first people to saber bottles of wine as they travelled through the countryside in Champagne with no time to spare to dismount from their horses to uncork. Sabering has since been a common spectacle at public events of both celebration and defeat — for example, among Napoleon’s troops after the Battle of Waterloo (1815).

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Napoleon’s tremendous triumphs across Europe provided enough cause for celebration. The cavalry used their sabres to crack open the champagne during these festivities.

When a wealthy Champagne business owner involved in viticulture named François Clicquot died in 1805, His 27-year-old widow (in French, Veuve) took over the business and created her first vintage (Veuve Clicquot) in 1811. Napoleon’s soldiers would often visit her vineyard, and they would compete to sabre bottles perfectly to impress her. 

champagne sabrage

Today, swords and sabres are designed and manufactured for the sole purpose of champagne sabrage. On 2 August 2015, Ashrita Furman of Jamaica, New York, used a 13-inch “Arabian sabre” to open 66 wine bottles in one minute and set a new Guinness World Record. On 5 September 2015, another exciting sabering event took place in Mendrisio, Switzerland to raise money for a local first aid service. They too set a Guinness World Record, for the largest crowd to sabre bottles simultaneously: 487.

The Physics of Champagne Sabrage

Champagne bottles can withstand a lot of pressure. Early bottle designs had a tendency to explode, so the manufacturers kept making them thicker until they could withstand the pressure brought on by the secondary fermentation’s release of carbon dioxide. [6]

If you like to open a Champagne by sabrage method, you have to child out your Champagne and then you have to put the neck down in an ice basket for extra cooling for 4-5 minutes then the sword goes fast through the neck to the point neck will cut from the touch of the sword with the ice neck. The flying neck will really impress you.

The pressure in the bottle and the motion of the sabre cause a crack to quickly spread through the glass when the blade strikes this vulnerable spot. The pressure within the bottle plus the velocity from the sabre will send the top flying once the crack has separated it from the bottle, often for a distance of 5–10 meters (16–33 feet).

The Champagne sword

A sword designed specifically for sabrage is called a champagne sword. Some swords have small, 12-inch (30-centimeter) blades that resemble long knives. Because the impact is what matters in sabrage, the blade’s edges should be blunt; a sharpened edge is not essential.

Want to know more? Take a look at these links!

Origin Story the Shape of a Champagne Coupe

Champagne: A Global History (Edible)

References

  1. Becky Sue Epstein, Champagne: A Global History (Reaktion Books, 2011), 189-190.
  2. Smith, Blake. 2017. “What Is The Origin And History Of Sabering Champagne?” Kazzit. https://kazzit.com/wine-blog/what-is-the-origin-and-history-of-sabering-champagne.html
  3.  Malin, Joshua, and Adam Teeter. 2014. “Legends & Myth: The History Of Champagne Sabering.” VinePair. https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/history-champagne-sabering/
  4.  “Most champagne/sparkling wine bottles opened in one minute,” Guinness World Records. Available: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-champagne-bottles-sabered-in-one-minute. Accessed 21 June 2022.
  5.  “Most people opening champagne/sparkling wine bottles simultaneously,” Guinness World Records. Available: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-champagne-bottles-sabered-simultaneously-. Accessed 21 June 2022.
  6. En.wikipedia.org. 2022. Sabrage – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabrage> [Accessed 3 July 2022].

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