Have you ever given thought of opening a bottle with a sword that adds drama to an occasion? Well, in Mauritius, that has become a trend, or rather has a seriouspurpose in promoting the enjoyment of Champagne, the lifestyle of fine diningand as they call it ‘The art of Sabering’. The Confrérie du Sabre d’Or in Mauritius has made it more memorable recently, during an annual initiation night that was hosted on October 9 at the Château Labourdonnais, by Mr Ravin Untiah, Ambassador of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or in Mauritius where the association shared insights on ‘Sabrage’, which is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a sword, mainly used in ceremonial occasions.
To begin with, The Confrérie du Sabre d’Or is devoted to promoting the act of Sabrage and the enjoyment of Cham- pagne. It can seem challenging when one is initially handed a sword and a chilled bottle of Champagne with the expectation that you will open the bottle with the blade of a sword. The Confrérie du Sabre d’Or was created in Senlis in France in 1986 by Jean Claude Jalloux the Grand Master, with the aim of sharing the expertise of opening a champagne bottle with a sword, a no- ble product that is celebrated around gourmet dinners. However, it should be noted that the actual tradition of Sabrage dates back to Napoleonic days (the Regency period here in Great Britain). Although the custom continued for some time in British Cavalry Regiments, it is now encouraged across the world by a society of like-minded Sabreurs – the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or.In the United Kingdom, it was first setup in 1999 by UK Ambassadeur Emeritus, Julian White. Jean Claude has helped in setting up this prestigious Confrerie in Mauritius since 1996. It’s been 22 years since its launch, and they are among the oldest and one of the first outside Europe.
Well, it can seem frightening when you are initially handed a ‘sabre’ (a Champagne tool: sword) and a chilled bottle of Cham- pagne with the expectation that you will open the bottle with the sword’s blade. Do not be discouraged! The technique goes like this: Take a chilled bottle of champagne, not ice cold but suitable for drinking. The ideal temperature is around 37°F or 3°C. Carefully remove the wire around the cork. Find one of the two seams along the side of the bottle. At the same time, you can remove the foil which will impede the sliding movement of the sabre. With your arm extended, hold the bottle firmly by placing the thumb inside the punt at the base. Make sure the neck is pointing up – around 30 degrees from horizontal. Calmly lay the sword flat along the seam of the bottle with the sharp edge ready to slide firmly against the glass annulus, or ring, at the top of the bottle. With a firm sweep, slide the sword along the seam to meet the ring at the top. Your firm sliding of the sword against this ring is aided by the internal pressure of the bottle, so that the cork flies dramatically away. This leaves a neat cut on the neck of the bottle and the champagne is ready to be enjoyed. Not as easy as we think, but all it needs is a firm wrist and you’ll be telling tales of how easy it really was! Furthermore, as one gets well versed and experienced with this art, there are different titles you can associate yourself to depending on the years of experience, such as, “Chevalier Sabreur”, “Officier Sabreur” and “Commandeur” which can become official after five years of being an Officier and by opening a Jeroboam (4 bottles/ 3 Liters).
Since its creation, the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or has acquired worldwide fame bringing together lovers and enthusiasts of Cham- pagne. In Mauritius, Mr Untiah together with the support of the Confrérie du Sabre d’or, have so far launched 12 champagne vaults which means that 10 percent of the resort and hotels here are already practicing the art of Sabrage. It should be high- lighted that this percentage is much more than the number of hotels recognized by La Confrerie in France. With the success and interest for this art, the association has recently opened a cellar in Madagascar and at the beginning of this year, at LUX Resort, Ile de La Reunion.
Having said that, as some might consider the art of Sabrage a theatrical alternative for the unknowingly clumsy twisting and explosion of the cork, or as some say, weapons and alcohol don’t mix; This French tradition is being given a new lease of life in Mauritius and is definitely being appreciated as a very spectacular way of celebrating Champagne!