Champagne! In victory one deserves it and in defeat one needs it!

by Tia
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For those who have done it, there’s a great sense of achievement. For those that haven’t yet tried it, there’s a sense of trepidation. For those thinking about it, there’s a hesitation in case they end up with a shard of glass in their drink.

We’re talking about sabering of course – the art of opening a bottle of bubbly with a sharp sword.

In advance of the Johannesburg Cap Classique, Champagne and Bubbly Festival happening on May 18 & May 19 at the Inanda Polo Club in Sandton, herewith a history of sabering and a guide on how to do it right!

According to various legends, we owe this grand gesture to Napoleon and his army of Hussars, a stylish bunch of light mounted infantry who rode into battle with sabres in hand. Legend has it that townspeople would throw them bottles of Champagne after the battle was over.

When you’re amped on adrenaline there’s no time to waste twisting off the cap and uncorking the bottle like a commoner, so the Hussars took to liberating the bubbles by slicing off the tops of the bottles.

Some even say Bonaparte’s troops used their sabering prowess to impress Madame Clicquot, the young widow who had inherited her husband’s Champagne house when she was twenty-seven. The Hussars are a thing of the past, but today there’s a formal group in France, the Confrerie du Sabre d’Or (Brotherhood of the Golden Sword), dedicated to the art of sabrage and enjoyment of Champagne. Members take things very seriously, wearing gold and green bowler hats with Musketeer-style capes.

But enough with the history and more about how to master the art of sabrage.

First get a bottle of bubbly – whether it be a bottle of locally produced Cap Classique or a bottle of expensive French Champagne (Cava and Prosecco don’t work as well because they have much less pressure inside).

Next, choose your weapon – you can use a true sabre, a knock-off imitation one or even a good old kitchen knife. Just make sure that whatever you use – it’s very sharp!

Put the bottle in the freezer or insert the neck into a bucket of ice for 15-20 minutes. A cold bottle breaks easier and helps you lose less bubbly on impact.

Remove the foil and the cage completely, then find the seam that runs from top to bottom.

Hold the bottle at a 30-45 degree angle with one hand cupped underneath. Stick your thumb in the punt (the indent in the bottom of the bottle), with your forefingers extending toward the neck. Don’t wrap your hand around the bottle unless you want to lose a finger or two!

Rest the blade flat across the seam, with the blunt back edge facing the cork. Run the blade along the seam of the bottle very gently a few times, then pull the knife slowly back along the seam toward your body, apply some pressure and quickly thrust it back up the seam toward the bottle’s lip. You don’t need to use all your strength here, but a flick of the wrist as you hit the collar can help.

The neck should snap off with a clean break, but for peace of mind, check for shards of glass in and around the bottle before you pour and take that first sip!

Now that you know how it’s done you should get a few bottles of bubbly and try it yourself. With the festival coming up, there’s no better way to impress family and friends and get them cheering you on like a rock star!

Bubbly producers at the festival will include Amari Lush, Anthonij Rupert Wyne, Bon Courage Estate, Boschendal, Graham Beck, Haute Cabrière, iMvula Wines, JC Le Roux, Khulu Fine Wine, Kleine Zalze Wines, Nanola Wines, Perdeberg Wines, Pongracz, Ultimate Provence, Veuve Du Vernay, Villiera Wines and WCellar with more brands to be announced over the coming weeks.

Tickets for the Johannesburg Cap Classique, Champagne & Bubbles Festival are now on sale from Webtickets at: https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/Event.aspx?itemid=1542929697

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