Sabre à Champagne
Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a Saber (Sabre), used for ceremonial occasions. The wielder slides the saber along the body of the bottle to break the top of the neck away. The force of the blunt side of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle.
The technique became popular in France when the army of Napoleon visited many of the aristocratic domains. It was just after the French Revolution and the saber was the weapon of choice of Napoleon’s light cavalry (the Hussars). Napoleon’s spectacular victories across all Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. During these parties the cavalry would open the champagne with their sabers. Napoleon, who was known to have said, “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it”, may have encouraged this.
There are many stories about this tradition. One of the more spirited tales is that of Madame Clicquot, who had inherited her husband’s small champagne house Veuve Clicquot at the age of 27. She used to entertain Napoleon’s officers in her vineyard, and as they rode off in the early morning with their complimentary bottle of champagne, they would open it with their saber to impress the rich young widow. Postage from France included.