Popping a cork is dramatic enough as it is. But for a special event with a daredevil crowd, sabering makes a seriously next-level party trick. Tamra Lotz of Mumm Napa, one of California’s top sparkling-wine producers, lets us in on her safety and technique tips for making the big chop.
First things first: This is not something to mess around with before doing your research. We’re talking about taking a knife to a pressurized glass bottle –- if not done correctly, it can be extremely dangerous. You’ll need to wear safety glasses (not negotiable! The guide shown here is wearing special protective sunglasses), and sabering should always be done outdoors, with the bottle pointed away from yourself and others.
Got it? Good, now let’s get to the fun stuff. Make sure your bottle is very cold -- storing it in the fridge or on ice for a few hours should do the trick. Chilling the bottle helps prevent gushing, which means less wine lost (important for obvious reasons).
Point the bottle in clear path away from people and possessions of value. (Really, we can’t stress this enough.) Remove the wire hood so that only the bottle and cork remain. Sometimes, the cork will pop on its own, which means you’re out of luck. But not really, because you’re holding a full bottle of Champagne.
Assuming your cork stays put, look for the two vertical seams that run across from each other. You want to hit one of these seams right where it meets the lip of the bottle -- in the place where the wire hood twists under the rim. This is a weak point of the bottle, which will help it to make a nice clean break.
Hold the bottle at a 30-degree angle, with your knife at 45 degrees from the bottle (this can be an actual saber, or a chef’s knife. It doesn’t need to be super sharp, but you need a big enough blade to get some force). Butter knives need not apply. Take a few practice swings at your target spot. Get ready ... get set ... SABER! You want to make one clean stroke up the seam, and follow through -- don’t just stop on impact.
Look at you! You did it! You deserve some Champagne. Inspect the break for chips of glass, then pour and party on. Remember: If you try this at home, be safe and be smart. And always finish the bottle.
Photos by Leah Bergman of Freutcake.