Off with their corks!

By Lou Phillips ·



This is a wine fairy tale that begins long ago and far away in a magical land featuring the Napoleonic armies fighting to break the chains of tyranny in the French revolution. These forces of good were victorious, and as in all good revolutions, they liberated the evil despots’ belongings. In the region of Champagne, this booty-liberation included many bottles of bubbles, which led to the defiant tradition of Sabering off the bottle tops of the Champagne, an act they named Sabrage.

Good enough story so far, but a fairy tale always needs romance, preferably featuring a damsel in distress. Which brings us to the beautiful young widow, one Veuve Clicquot, who was the owner of a struggling Champagne House, a patriot, and maybe an opportunist seeing a chance to promote her brand. Clicquot often entertained Napoleon’s officers in her vineyards, and as they rode off in the morning with their gifts, these officers would Sabrage with great flourish to impress the lovely widow.

None won her hand, but Sabrage was forever burned into the lore of Champagne, and many bottles of the Widow’s bubbles have since been enjoyed.

Now let’s look at modern bubbles worthy of the saber. Local wine broker and good times expert, Dawn Bertsch, recommends that, “For life’s best moments bring on the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose,” at $85 a bottle at Uncorked in Truckee, Tahoe City and Olympic Valley. Primarily Pinot Noir, this is serious stuff, with aromas and flavors of spice and strawberry brioche, and a fine bead of bubbles.


Uncorked’s wine savant, Kali Kopley, says break out the saber for the Longboard Brut Cuvee. At $45 a bottle, this California sparkler is made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and has unique tangy orange notes, and a refreshingly dry finish. This would rock with an Uncorked Cheese Plate.


At Truckee’s Pour House, Dean Schaecher not only touts the Michel Turgy Blanc de Blanc for $52 a bottle, but he will also joyfully Saber-away for your drinking pleasure. This 100 percent Chardonnay Champagne has a beautiful core of apple and pear and a rich mouth feel.

Also in Truckee, the team at Restaurant Trokay is happy to Saber any bubbly on their list. General manager Roxy Dominguez has an especially entertaining way with the blade.

Just imagine starting or finishing an anniversary, birthday or any day you want to celebrate – with a burst of Champagne. That’s the real beauty of a sabering experience. It not only makes special occasions even more special, but it can also transform any day or evening into a memorable event.

Lou Phillips is a Level 3 (advanced) Sommelier and wine educator specializing in advising private collectors and businesses. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or [email protected] Visit for more Wine Time columns.