Want to open a bottle of champagne the safe way? Twist the cage off, wrap a towel around the top, and twist until you hear the cork work its way loose.
Want to pop the top on a beautiful bottle of bubbly, impress everyone at the party, and ring in the new year like the classy badass you are? Try using a sword. Dan Rinke and Trey Starnes from Johan Vineyards, just outside of Salem, Oregon stopped by The Manual office to provide an expert hand and expertise when it comes to opening a bottle of champagne the right way.
The art of champagne sabrage was popularized by Napoleon’s cavalry, who would use their swords to lop the tops off bottles when celebrating military victory. In modern days, the ritual is mostly seen in tasting rooms and lavish restaurants, which makes it all the more appropriate for your party.
Sabrage works because the contents of a bottle are under enormous pressure, usually around 90 psi, which is about three times the pressure of the air in your car’s tires. The stress of that pressure builds up at a few key points: along the seams running the length of the bottle on opposite sides, and where the smooth part of the neck turns to a lip by the cork. When you strike at the right spot, the pressure causes the glass to separate cleanly, taking the cork with it.
First, it’s important to chill the bottle well, and invert it into an ice bath to get the neck nice and cold. Hold the bottle with your thumb in the punt on the bottom of the bottle with your fingers underneath, and one of the seams that runs the bottle straight up. Carefully remove the wire cage, leaving the cork in, and then rest the blunt edge of your blade on the bottle, then swing outward, striking firmly where the bottle meets the annulus. It doesn’t have to be too hard, but if you swing right and follow through, the cork will fly 20 or 30 feet and you’ll be pouring bubbly for everyone.
For Johan Vineyards, sabering bottles of sparkling wine is a fun addition to the tastings they hold at their 63 acre biodynamic farm. All of their wine is crafted with an eye towards producing the best possible fruit, and intervening in the natural process as little as possible. Their whole farm is designed to operate with as little outside input as possible, a self-sustaining organic hillside with cows, hayfields, and apples.
Oregon has a young wine industry, and Johan Vineyards focuses on creating wines that emphasize the conditions their fruit grows under. Colder weather in 2010 brought grapes that were well suited for sparkling wine, and the result is a drink that’s dry and aromatic, with a subtle fruitiness and a dash of sweetness on the finish.
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