Order of the Golden Sabre

Sabrage logoTwo hundred years ago officers of the French cavalry under the command of Napoleon would celebrate victory in battle by opening a bottle of champagne but instead of searching around in their saddlebags for a corkscrew they would simply slice the top of the bottle off with a sabre. This is the art of Sabrage in which a swords edge meets with the top of the bottle, the annulus, along the seam which is the weakest point just below the cork.

Sabrage 13This proud and dashing tradition has now been revived and can now be performed by any budding dragoon under the tuition of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or (Club of the Golden Sabre) founded in France in 1986 in which the UK branch was formed in 1999. The society hold various events around the country in which everyone attending can have a go at sabering a bottle of Champagne to become a Subreur the entry rank and the first step in the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or other ranks as you go up the chain are Chevalier Sabreur, Officier, Commandeur and Grand Commandeur.
Smith&Wollensky logo2On the 16th of August 2016 I was kindly invited to such an event at Smith & Wollensky a classic American steakhouse in the heart of London run by Operations director Nathan Evans who also happens to be a Grand Commandeur of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or. The evenings event was sponsored by Champagne house Perrier-Jouét supplying bottles of their Grand Brut for sabering.

S&Wseafood
Selection of Smith & Wollensky seafood

On arrival we were asked to sign a disclaimer whilst being offered a glass of Perrier-Jouét Champagne.  Men in green cloaks which signifies seniority in the society were already busy setting up, arranging tables with suitably chilled bottles of Champagne and a big heavy curtain in front to catch the bottle top as it flies from the neck. The Grand Commandeur Nathan Evans introduced himself and gave us a quick history of the art of Sabrage ending with the immortal words “the only thing you can do with a sabraged bottle is drink it !”.

Introductions over Nathan then gave us a quick demonstration slicing the top of the bottle with elegant ease as the cork still firmly in the neck shot off with a loud pop into the curtain with enthusiastic applause.

sabrage 11
On my way to becoming a Sabreur, at the first attempt !

Soon after it was our turn, we were called up two at a time aided by Senior members Nathan Evans and David Herbert. Suddenly the room was filled with excitement as loud pops like gunfire filled the room as bottles were sliced with golden sabres as guests became Sabreurs after successfully hacking off the top of the champagne bottles, Sabreur being the entry rank after the first successful slicing. After completion we were presented with the top of the bottle in a velvet pouch along with a  Sabreur certificate.

Sabrage 2
After a successful Sabrage a photo call, even got to try on the cape and hat

I was lucky and hacked off the top of the bottle first time, probably due to the fact I was relaxed having finished a couple of glasses of champagne before hand. The secret is to find the seam in the bottle and run the sword along the bottle in a smooth action with the blade not leaving the bottle hitting the annulus (the rim below the cork) and make sure to follow through as you would in a golf swing.

Links to Sabrage and how it’s done…..

http://www.goldensabre.co.uk/?page_id=19

As the evening continued we were treated to a selection of fantastic seafood including Oysters, lobster, crab and prawns as well as Smith & Wollensky’s famous aged cured steak, all washed down with the fabulous Champagne (see below for tasting notes).

Fabulous venue, fabulous hosts and a fantastic evening had by all, many thanks to Smith & Wollensky, Nathan, David and of course Perrier-Jouét.

 

Perrier – Jouét Grand Brut Champagne.

sabrage 10Pinot Noir/Meuneir and Chardonnay

A light straw colour, lively mousse with a steady stream of fine bubbles.

Yeasty on the nose, slightly oaky with a hint of crisp apples and pears

Taste – dry, full flavoured, slightly flowery with citrus fruits, brioche, pear and green apples

 

 

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Graham Norton Sauvi GN on Blanc 2015

GNorton SBWhen I first came across this bottle at a Majestic tasting  my initial thought was it’s just another celebrity endorsed mass produced bottle of plonk, well, I couldn’t have been more wrong, this was a sheer delight and generally well received by everyone who tasted it.

Viewers of Graham Norton’s chat show will normally see him within reach of a very large glass of white wine in which his tipple of choice is normally Sauvignon Blanc. So with the help of  guys from Invivo, Co founder Tim Lightbourne and winemaker Rob Cameron who transported 6 different samples of Sauvignon Blanc from their New Zealand Marlborough growers to London where Graham Norton joined up and helped in the blending process creating his very own bottle.

The label itself looked strange at first until you realise that it is actually quite clever with the emphasis on the GN (Graham Norton) and it definitely stands out.

In the glass the aromatic aromas hit you straight way filling the room with tropical fruits, grass and passion-fruit, stick your nose in the glass it will make your eyes water it’s so intense. On first sip this tasted fresh and zingy, the tropical fruits are evident especially passion-fruit  along with sharp limes and lemons. A little hint of freshly cut grass and a little herby thing going on in the background make this a refreshingly delicious glass of wine and at £8.99 bit of a bargain I’d say !

Now my wife and daughter are big ‘Sovvy Bee’ fans  especially from New Zealand and they both liked this a lot and I must admit I enjoyed it and I’d say it’s probably one of the better Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted recently, Nice one Graham !.

8corks

 My Rating 8/10 Corks

£8.99 on Multi buy at Majestic

Don’t like cheap fizz – Think Again

Louvel F ChampChampagne, generally a pretty expensive purchase, especially the good stuff and mostly opened only on special occasions. Now thanks to Asda   you can open up a bottle of bubbly whenever you feel the need for fizz with this inexpensive Louvel Fontaine Champagne, wait for it, at an unbelievable price of £10, yes ! a mere tenner.

I must be honest I saw this on the shelf at £10 and I walked straight passed it not giving it a second thought dismissing it a cheap rubbish but this time I picked up a bottle having read some pretty good reviews in the press and online recently and decided to give it a go.

This Champagne made with Pinot Noir 70%, Chardonnay 20% and Pinot Meunier is not produced by a co-operative but made for Asda by a family run house called Champagne Gruet  based in Buxeuil part of the Aube (Champagne- Ardenne) region of North East France.

So what’s it like ? well, I opened a suitably chilled bottle for family and friends on a warm humid evening and listening to the Mmm’s after the first sips it was safe to say that everyone was enjoying their glass.

When initially poured this was extremely fizzy with a steady stream of fine bubbles and a pale straw like colour. Nose was fairly muted but it’s the taste where this shines, fresh and bright, dry (not overly) with well-balanced acidity and just enough depth of flavour. Not much in the way of toastiness but full of citrus fruits and a touch of vanilla and a reasonably long finish.

I actually enjoyed this better as it warmed up and settled in the glass, enhancing the overall fruitiness. If you like your fizz toasty and nutty then this might not be for you but I thought  this was a delicious fresh tasting Champagne and seemed to be enjoyed by everyone who sampled it.

Don’t take my word for it, go out and buy a bottle, see what you think and let me know !

8corks

My Rating 8/10 Corks

Asda £10