Saber the Flavor: A Guide to Champagne

Champagne (or sparkling wine) is a traditional beverage selection for many festivities ranging from birthdays, to festive gatherings, to the ‘champagne holiday’ itself- New Year’s eve. Regardless of your event, those bubblies can add that extra flair for your special occasion.

bottles and glasses
two clear champagne glasses filled with yellow liquids

Champagne or Sparkling Wine?
Technically, all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are champagne (though the terms are often used interchangeably). For champagne to truly be champagne, it must be made within the region of Champagne, France. There are also specifics involving which grapes can be used, as well as the necessity of using the methode champenoise.

All others sparkling beverages thereby classified as a variety of sparkling wine, and may use the traditional methode champenoise or any other method they would like to save on costs over the labor intensive champagne traditions- thus providing a more affordable beverage.

Glassware

The most common drinking vessels to use for sparkling beverages are flutes. There are a lot of different styles of champagne flutes available, though two of the most common are standard and trumpet flutes.

Sometimes you’ll see coupe glasses/flutes or specialty champagne glasses (both wide rimmed) being used as well, as they allow for a more aromatic experience for your effervescent drink; but are less common.

Knowing Your Bottle

There are quite a few terms you may want to know about your bottle if you’re going to be opening it around family or friends who are particularly interested in wines- we’ll cover some of the basics here.

From the top:

-The Capsule (under the foil) is the cage and metal that holds the cork in place and protects the bottle from unexpectedly bursting open from its massive pressure inside

-The Cork sits under the capsule

-The Annulus is the ring on the top of the bottle that the cork sits in/on

-The Neck is directly under the annulus and is covered in foil when you buy your bottle

-The Shoulder(s) of the bottle are at the base of the neck and is where the bottle begins to expand to its largest diameter

-The Body is the portion of the bottle that is the widest diameter and runs until the bottom of the bottle

-The Punt is the indentation on the bottom of the bottle

Words on the Bottle

Do you ever see words on your bottle such as ‘dry’, ‘brut’, or ‘demi sec’ and wonder what exactly are you getting? The words on your label are your ally in deciding what beverage is the right selection for your occasion. Typical wordings include:

  • Brut Nature: The driest rating
  • Extra Brut: Twice as sweet as Brut Nature, but still very dry
  • Brut: A typical champagne or sparkling beverage rating- standard dryness
  • Extra Dry: A middle of the road sweetness
  • Dry: More than ten times sweeter than Brute Nature; beginning to edge toward sweet
  • Demi Sec: A very sweet form of sparkling beverage
  • Doux: The sweetest form of champagne or sparkling wine

Of course, when we say sweet, we mean in terms of the beverage in question- there are certainly other beverages which would be far sweeter than the above listed; but within the classifications of champagne in general, these are good terms to know.

Now Serving

Once you’ve selected your perfect champagne bottle, it is time to open your bottle for your guests (or yourself- you’re worth it!). There are many ways to open a sparkling bottle, but I’ll discuss two of my favorites.

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Twist and Pull*:
The most common form of opening

-Remove the film by pulling the tab (the small part that leads out of the foil) and lead it around the bottle

-Place your thumb over the capsule and untwist the wire cage (or muselet)

-Remove the cage and the metal bit on top of it

NEVER POINT THE CORK AT ANYTHING YOU DON’T WISH TO DAMAGE

-Secure the bottle and hold onto the cork

-Twist the BOTTLE down and away from you slowly and remember to keep pressure on the cork

Assuming you’ve not shaken the bottle prior and you’ve held your grip strong, your beverage will open with a soft gasp or puff and that will be the only thing leaving your bottle- assuring you the maximum drinking capacity.

*Remember- a sparkling bottle is under high pressure that will allow 6-8 meters of cork travel after opening if not secured properly. Use caution.

Some say that the bottle should be left at a 45-degree angle while using this technique, but I will say that I haven’t had any trouble keeping it fully inverted without issue…

Saber/Sabrage:
SAFETY NOTE- While I have not experienced issues myself, it is possible to explode your bottle while using this technique if not done properly. Utilize this method at your own risk.

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The way to open a bottle in style if you want to have a little fun, surprise a guest/friend, or make an impression. Typically, this style of opening is over the top, but it can be very enjoyable and I’ve found that everyone seems to love seeing it done. While it doesn’t have to be done with a sword (I’ve seen it done with heavy glasses, spoons, etc. I’ve even seen it with an iron once!), it is probably the style that most people think of.

Despite the appearance of the swords used to open the bottles, the blade in question doesn’t need to be sharp at all- it is merely the concussive force involved at the connection point of the annulus and the neck that explodes aggressively due to the pressure inside the bottle. The angle of your swing and bottle will (typically) determine its breaking pattern.

To do this style, you’ll need to know a few things about prepping the bottle.

-Remove the film by pulling the tab and leading it around the bottle

-Once removed, place your thumb over the capsule and untwist the wire cage
-Remove the cage and the metal bit on top of it

-Locate the seams of the bottle- all sparkling bottles have two seams for the bottle. There is sometimes a seam that appears/feels stronger than the other- make sure to strike on the side of the weak seam

AGAIN, DO NOT TO POINT AT ANYTHING YOU DO NOT WISH TO DAMAGE
*Remember- a sparkling bottle is under high pressure that will allow 6-8 meters of cork travel after opening if not secured properly. Use caution.

-Turn the bottle with the weak seam up

-Place the bottle at a 30 degree angle if using a saber (some say 45 degree with other objects)

-Swing with precision and strength from the shoulder of the bottle and strike the annulus with a follow-through swing, assuring not to stop at the annulus where you strike it

*Use great caution when handling your opened bottle, as the glass edges will be exceedingly sharp along where the annulus, neck, and cork used to connect

-Due to the incredible pressure in the bottle, the glass shards should all be pushed away from the bottle along with the gas; leaving you with a pristine drink

Congratulations! You have now been awarded with an opened bottle (hopefully!) and can smile as you bewilder your guests with your savvy new skill.

Pouring

All that remains now is to pour your drink into your glassware or to select whatever mixer you’d like to do. Most traditionally, mimosas (champagne and orange juice) or standard champagne are your options- though the sky is the limit when it comes to producing additional drinks… I typically use around 2/3 to 3/4 of bubbly to 1/3 or 1/4 orange juice in my mimosas, but that’s a personal preference. I have found that pouring at approximately a 45 degree angle also helps to keep the drink in the glass and allows for more controlled pouring in an effort to eliminate overflow.

Enjoy


I hope that you have found some of this knowledge useful and that you enjoy your next drink!

clink (champagne) opitmized


Disclaimer


As mentioned above, using a blade or another object to literally BREAK GLASS for serving can be dangerous. We trust that you will not perform this feat unless you are comfortable taking the risks involved and that we will not be held accountable for any injury or broken bottles as a result of your experience.

If you would like a saber like mine, you can find it here: Fox Saber

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