Saber the Moment
When it comes to wine, food and celebration, the French seem to add their magic touch to all. Not only have they perfected the most marvelous of wines and effervescent of champagnes, but also a unique and enthusiastic way of opening the bottle, called "the art of sabering." This technique calls for one to open the champagne by slicing off the top of the bottle with a long saber while the glass remains intact around the cork - a feat that dates back to the 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte and the French cavalry.
Several enticing stories revolve around this bit of history, but the most entertaining involved a test of Napoleon's newly assigned officers. Each assignee was given three horses, three bottles of champagne, three "willing girls" and three hours in which they needed to drink the champagne, have their way with the girls and traverse a rugged, 20 mile course. "Sabering" the bottle while on horseback could save precious minutes for other tasks. The victory cry of Napoleon's cavalry became "Sabre le champagne!"
Sabering continues throughout Europe today in celebration of weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and a myriad of other special events, and the ritual is now becoming more popular in the United States. As a veteran cake designer, I decided to carry on this festive tradition and offer to perform the art of sabering for my clientele. On a recent trip to California’s Napa Valley to see my work displayed at The American Center for Wine, Food & The Arts, I learned the techniques of sabering and honed my skills.
Because of my passion for perfection and the best life has to offer, I wanted to use what I would consider the most exquisite bottle of champagne for my sabering presentations. My search led me to the prestigious Maison de Perrier Jouet in Epernay, France. A parallel search for the ultimate saber led elsewhere in France – to the Christofle Haute Orfevreier Workshop in Saint Denis.
Perrier Jouet, a Producer of champagne since1811, created the signature look of the bottle, with its delicate arch of white Japanese anemones, in 1902. The graceful bottle was blown by master glass maker Emile Galle. At that point, the quintessential marriage of wine and art was a fait accomplis. Today, the beautiful “Fleur de Champagne,” or “flower bottle,” is automatically recognized as Perrier Jouet and its elegant champagne.
But this is only half the story, for the bottle still needs to be opened for its intoxicating drink to be savored! As luck would have it, another fait accomplis was realized at the beginning of the next century when the famous silversmith, Christofle, designed the XXI Champagne Saber, created for the celebration of the new millennium. The saber was handcrafted in the Haute Orfevreier Workshop in sterling silver, its forged stainless steel blade plated with chromium. One side of the handle is embossed with “XXI” to denote the 21st century, while the other is embossed with symbols that represent ecology, globalization, communications and the internet.
When the now famous “flower bottle” reached its 100th birthday in September 2002, Christofle gifted Perrier Jouet with the saber for a year filled with celebrations. Having secured an identical saber from Christofle, I took up sabering for distinguished clients at elegant weddings and other special events. Just recently, I sabered a Fleur de Champagne bottle at a wedding in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the bride and groom’s toast before cutting one of my wedding cakes. After the toast, the saber was handed to the bride and groom to make the initial ceremonial cut of the cake. Then I signed the cork with the date of the couple’s wedding.
I now fondly refer to my saber as “Xcaliber.”