A saber cuts through the air at the end of an arm; a fragment of a broken bottle lies in the other hand. A liquid spurts out high and floods the stage. Unless you are at the center of the plot of an Agatha Christie novel, rare are the occasions to find yourself in such a situation. Unless, champagne lover, we have a particularly happy event to celebrate. The tradition of “sabrage”, which consists of beheading the neck of a bottle of champagne, dates back to the early days of the 19th century.e century.
At the time, the Napoleonic wars were raging and the hussar regiments of the imperial guard took a habit full of noise and panache: they celebrate their victories on the battlefield by breaking the necks of the bottles with the back of a saber. – hence the expression. To pay homage to the initiators of the practice, it is customary to use a lighter saber, with a short and slightly curved blade. For the less nostalgic, YouTube is full of tutorials for performing the gesture using a spoon, a flute, a watch or even a smartphone … at your own risk.
The sabrage of champagne is a perilous gesture, usually carried out by trained sommeliers, which requires respecting some basic safety rules. ” Sabrage is only carried out outdoors, in an empty and open space. You have to keep any spectators behind you, at a good distance of 10 meters », Warns Stéphane Manigold, restaurant owner and great champagne lover.
Time for serious things: ” First, tilt the bottle, which must be cold, at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees. You have to hold it firmly, using your weak hand. To get a good grip, put your thumb in the cavity under the bottle, and wrap the base with the rest of your fingers. », He explains. With the other hand, one comes to dishevel the bottle by removing the label which is around the neck and one delicately undoes the wire muselet which holds the stopper.
The challenge now is to find the “thread”; this little seam which runs the length of the bottle and which represents its line of weakness. We then adjust it in front of us and, from there only, we can take hold of the sword. ” The blunt side of the blade is placed perpendicular to the neck and light friction is carried out to heat the glass. When you feel ready, you give a sharp blow by pushing your hand forward. The gesture should be sharp, straightforward, and at the same time ample enough – like a golfer’s swing », Concludes Stéphane Manigold. The menu of one of its restaurants, Substance, named after a famous vintage of Anselme Selosse, offers more than 200 champagne references. Swords are not allowed inside the establishment.
“Fox” champagne saber, blade 40 cm, € 139.90 at couteauxduchef.com