Pic by Kimce Louw

This technique (sabrage) became popular in Francewhen 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 fearsome 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, 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 ofChampagne, they would open it with their saber to impress the rich young widow.

It’s a silly business, sabrage. Champagne bottles are so easy to open without a sword, but there is always an adrenalin rush when the blade hits the lip of the bottle and not a shard of glass is lost in the process. When the bottle trots in at an average R850 retail price per bottle, the feeling of risk is increased tenfold.

Video by Ricardo Gouveia

It fell to me to open the bubbly at the final class of the Uncorked2 Wine School. Janice had honoured us with hosting the session at her home. We drank wines from Portugal and Germany, ending our foray into ‘Old World Wines’, before moving on to the New World and being privileged to taste the iconic Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and, finally, to being spoiled rotten with Springbok and herb / Wildebeest and olive pates and biltong to go with our South African wine of the day, Warwick’s Three Cape Ladies.

I didn’t jot down all the hilarious bon mots that spiced up the morning, what does stick in my mind is the hilarious banter about Janice’s gas-powered wine opener which was a gift from her husband, Sam, and Veronica’s quest to master using it.

Oh, and we were treated to a visit to Janice’s enviable wine cellar, where Ricardo indulged in a moment of lord of the manor fantasy …

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and cannot recommend it highly enough.



  1. Wonderful post. I don’t know what happened yesterday instead of Sparkle it read my real name. Prolly you asked yourself who this is!
    I guess Vero’s pic should give me a thumbs up on black attendees.

  2. Pingback: Night at the Wine Cellar

  3. How neat to see you in video! Great job with the wine bottle. They should hire you for weddings. How fun would that be. You could be dressed up in a fancy dress from the time period and give a speech about the process. Everyone is always looking for something new and interesting for their wedding. 🙂

  4. I knew a guy who always opened the champagne with his saber, it was a restaurant and we drunk a lot of champagne in those days, until the day the cork with its little piece of glass attached sailed out and hit me right above the eye, (I was paying no attention to his dramatics so did not duck) blood everywhere..little scar, much hysteria and .. FREE drinks for me forever! True! years ago now. c

  5. What a wonderful way to finish your course and adventure. Napoleons quote…we should just drink champagne every day! I agree with that! You look fantastic and you’ve mastered another skill ! x

  6. Lovely to see the video of you – man you’re so skillful with that sword. I don’t think I could EVER manage to hold the sword, never mind knock off the cork never mind without glass….

  7. I can imagine the thrill – not so great if you chop a piece of the bottle instead, I’m sure. Well done, girl! One should better make sure to have a firm grip on that saber, yes? (See the hair has grown back rather quickly 🙂

  8. Pingback: Seven Deadly Sins and the Games we Play | thekitchensgarden

  9. Well done on the sabrage, Cin – you’re one brave gal doing it with a boittle of Veuve. Sabrage is the favourite party trick of a friend of mine and it never ceases to delight

  10. Pingback: CLICQUOT-TY CLICK AND JACARANDAS « The only Cin

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