Sabrage 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 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.
Patiently, each camper at Camp Schramsberg waited his or her turn to saber a chilled bottle of Schramsberg. We had a choice in using a blunt, over-sized knife or a sword dating back to 105 A.D. Holly Peterson shared her story on this prearranged purchase she made at a Paris flea market. Living in Paris, Holly had made some great connections that led to her purchase of this sabering sword.
Step one to sabrage: We first learned that the bottle neck must be chilled to an icy level. Also, the bottle dressing must be removed, including the cage (once the cage is removed, always point away from self and crowd). Upon inspection of the bottle, one must feel the seam of the glass and plan to drag the sword from the bottom of the seam and in a swift sweep of the dull blade, thrust it forward to the lip of the bottle and follow through (as in tennis). Be sure to keep the blade on the bottle, as one camper hit the bottle with the blade and crashed glass everywhere (not typical).
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to simply open a bottle of bubbly again. #AlwaysSaber
Fun Fact: No need to worry about glass in your bubbly when sabered. The air pressure prevents any glass from moving backward.
NOTE: This blog post is part of a series on Camp Schramsberg. To start from the beginning, click HERE.