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.


69 Comments Add yours

  1. Leeswammes says:

    Wow, great story. How sharp is that sabre? Also good for cutting vegetables, I’m sure!

    1. theonlycin says:

      The sabre blade has not been sharpened, and you use the back of the blade to do sabrage 🙂

  2. Tandy says:

    I am going to try this technique some time 🙂 I have seen the wine opener at the GF&WS – but it was a tad expensive for what it is in my opinion xxxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      It is very nifty though, I would buy one if I was flush 🙂

  3. MissChris says:

    What a delight! You looking good Cin!!!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you Chris, I am feeling good 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      And once again in control of my world 🙂

  4. Sparkle says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Of course I know who your are, you’re the only Sparkle/Mahesi in my life 🙂

  5. Tilly Bud says:

    I cheered for you! Well done!

    But what kind of person just happens to have a sabre lying around?

    1. theonlycin says:

      Tilly, a complete stranger contacted me last year and said that God had told hime to send me a sabre. Life is really strange sometimes.

      1. For real? That is amazing. You should carry it in a holster or whatever people carry them in, it must be important. Or wine is more important than I thought. I tried a new one a few weeks ago and it gave me terrible chest pains. I kept thinking, I can’t die from drinking wine.

      2. theonlycin says:

        Oh my goodness, that’s scary, I wonder if it was the tannins in the wine?

  6. Seriously way cool!
    Have a happy day.
    🙂 Mandy

    1. theonlycin says:

      You too, Mandy *heart*

  7. MaanKind says:

    I did a sabrage once, it was orgasmic! At Haute Cabriere

    1. theonlycin says:

      Orgasmic is exactly how it is, MaanKind, I had the most ferocious headache afterwards.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, angel friend 🙂

  8. granny1947 says:

    You are looking SO much better.
    Love you lots.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I can’t tell you how much better I am feeling. Love you too and see you soon 🙂

  9. Count Nicholas Czardas says:

    Where was my invite, young lady ?

    1. theonlycin says:

      You neglect your mailbox, Sir!

      1. Count Nicholas Czardas says:

        Probably. Why did you not utilise carrier pidgeon or some other form of invitation ?

      2. Count Nicholas Czardas says:

        I think that may be spelt “pigeon”, but then my spelling is wobbly, like Edward Bear’s.

      3. theonlycin says:

        Gave it to a bloke on a schooner to deliver …

  10. earlybird says:

    MOST impressive!

  11. nursemyra says:

    I love your top! Very flattering

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Myra, I have a few of them in different colours 🙂

  12. suzicate says:

    You have the most fabulous adventures!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I sure do, SuziCate 🙂

  13. sonsothunder says:

    Now that’s what I call “Fine Dining” for sure.
    God Bless You

    1. theonlycin says:

      Blessings back at you, Paul 🙂

  14. nrhatch says:

    You look MARVELOUS! Well done with the sabrage! 😀

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, Nancy 🙂

  15. slpmartin says:

    Loved the video…sounds like a wonderful course.

    1. theonlycin says:

      It was an amazing gift, Charles, I really loved every minute 🙂

  16. Linda says:

    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. 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      That’s a super idea, Linda 🙂

  17. lifeinarecipe says:

    You are always a great source for information. I always feel so much smarter after reading your posts! 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks cindy *blush*

  18. gospelwriter says:

    Love that you posted the video – you look so cool, like you’ve completely mastered the art of sabrage.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m a bit of a show-off, eh 😉

  19. ceciliag says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Ouchie, but worth the freebies 😉

  20. Yvette says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, Yvette 🙂

  21. Cindy, I think you’re devilishly clever 😀 Off to practice with a big kitchen knife and the lemonade….
    (not really)

    1. theonlycin says:

      Hahaha, you can even do sabrage with a tablespoon, you know 🙂

  22. dearrosie says:

    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….

    1. theonlycin says:

      Hehehe, you’ll never know until you try it 😉

  23. 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 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, time to chop all the hair off again 🙂

  24. Tokeloshe says:

    Wow! Well done!

    Great post.

    Love the video thanks for sharing.

  25. Pseu says:

    Wouldn’t like to meet you up a dark alley…. the sabre was handled with aplomb!

  26. The course was great, wish there was a Part 3 🙂

  27. The Hook says:

    Weapons AND fine wine? What a life you lead, you busy gal!

  28. pinkpolkadotfood says:


  29. Celi sent me and I just have to say I like whoever poured that last glass!

  30. bluebee says:

    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

  31. Seriously cool video. You are a very stylish lady…

  32. Vivica says:

    Sabrage is silly, poncy rubbish…big yawn to a pointless endeavour.

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