Champagne sabering is a technique of opening a champagne bottle with a saber. The saber is used to cut the neck of the bottle in such a way that the mouth of the bottle goes off with the cork.
Contrary to popular belief, it is the blunt side of the saber that is used to pull the stunt. The pressure with which the saber is swung breaks off the bottle neck. Once the sabering is done, the opened bottle is left for pouring to begin.
The French Revolution took place in 1789 and Napoleon Bonaparte seized power about a decade after. Napoleon’s armies were invincible then. Napoleon and some of his soldiers armed themselves with brass hilted sabers. After taking power, Napoleon led his team in several wars across Europe and they won virtually all of them.
Legend has it that as the victorious soldiers rode back home, people usually threw bottles of champagne to them as a form of celebration since Napoleon has declared several times that taking some champagne is necessary either in the euphoria of victory or in the trauma of defeat.
While on their horses, it would be cumbersome and difficult to begin to unwrap the foil and open each of them manual uncork the bottles of champagne. So, one of the soldiers successfully sabered his own bottle of champagne and others took the cue because of the convenience involved.
The champagne opening technique became popular not only because of the convenience involved but also because it appears to be some kind of stunt and as such it gives the performer some kind of pleasure. In fact, it became some form of entertainment to saber several bottles of champagne.
Napoleon’s soldiers took it to be their hallmark. They usually sabered their bottles of champagne whether they were on their horses or not. In fact, today, special sabers are now manufactured for the sole purpose of sabering champagne. It has become a culture in several parts of the world. People now pay to learn the art of sabering bottles of champagne. It is a skill on its own.
At this juncture, it is important to let you know that it is just one of the common legends about the origin and history of champagne sabering. There are several other myths and legends. According to another common legend, there was Madame Clicquot, a widow who inherited her late husband’s champagne house at the age of 27. Some of Napoleon’s soldiers were usual guests at her vineyard. So as they rode off in the morning, they will saber their last bottle of champagne to impress the widow.
Up till today, there has been no evidence to substantiate any of the legends. They all remain mere myths and legends. However, since the two commonest legends about the origin of champagne sabering have linked Napoleon and his soldiers to it, the art may have originated from them.
By: Blake Smith