Sabrage – don’t try this at home

You can also buy Champagne swords that are designed to perform a sabrage. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sabrage is the art of opening a bottle of Champagne with a sword. I have done it several times with varying degrees of success. Choose a bottle with maximum pressure such as Champagne or a good bottle-fermented Méthode Traditionnelle and avoid low-pressure fizz such as Prosecco.

Choose your weapon carefully. Some swords are too flexible to be effective.

Now study the bottle to locate a vertical seam. Remove the foil and locate the spot where the vertical seam meets the lip of the bottle. That is the bottles’ weak point. Carefully remove the wire (you can loosen it, slide it up the bottle and tighten it to prevent the cork from flying off) to expose the weak point.

Choose your weapon carefully. Some swords are too flexible to be effective. The best tool is a machete because it is not at all flexible. You can also buy Champagne swords that are designed to perform a sabrage. The back of solid carving knife works well. Use the blunt end, not the sharp end of your sword or machete.

Dry the bottle well to make it less slippery. Run the sword up the bottle until it connects, with moderate force, the weak spot on the bottle. If all goes well the bottle will break around the lip and a lump of wire, cork and glass will fly for around 5-10 meters without hitting anyone or breaking anything. You may lose a little wine but on the plus side, that will help remove any shards of glass. Check the first glass for shards.

I was given a Champagne sabre and a bottle of excellent premier cru Champagne by a friend for Christmas. I used it for the first time last night. It’s such a magnificent weapon that I thought it unnecessary to remove the wire. That was a big mistake. I couldn’t break the neck despite several attempts. Without realising that the neck had broken and was being held together by the wire I attempted to open the wine in the conventional way and slashed my hands in four places. Not too serious and nothing a large glass of excellent fizz couldn’t fix, but a lesson well-learned. It’s important to note that I hadn’t enjoyed any wine before the attempted sabrage.

Sabrage trivia: The greatest number of Champagne bottles sabered in one minute and recognised by the Guinness Book of Records is 66. There is no mention of loss of blood or stitches required.

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