Fun and Games in the Dordogne

Back in 2019, I was introduced to the wonderful ‘sport’ (sic) of sabering by the Mercer Island chapter of The Chain Gang, particularly Bruce and Kim York, and their daughter Casey, my sabering gurus.

The warm-up – shall we / shan’t we? I mean, yes, obviously!

Sabering is supposed to be opening a bottle of champagne using a sabre (that’s ‘saber’ for our American cousins who are wondering what on earth a ‘sabre’ is).

The Yorks have a great Instagram account called ‘WillItSaber‘? I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to sabering – I’ve usually got a dirty-great pedal spanner handy, and they do the job wonderfully. But the Yorks try to find out whether an implement can be used to saber, or not!


Expert tuition from Casey York
2. Expert tuition from Casey York
I just checked the Instagram feed – the most recent attempts used an axe, a garden fork, an ice-cream scoop, a hotel key and a hip flask. All successful! Skis, pizza slicers – even wine glasses – also feature.

Fancy giving it a go? The first step should probably be to check out @willitsaber on Instagram. To give yourself the best chance, prepare properly. Chill your bottle, and then put it in the freezer for the last 20 minutes.

3. Bottle preparation and a room key - that's ambitious!
3. Bottle preparation and a room key – that’s ambitious!
Then remove the foil, and the muselet (that’s the wire cage to you). If you look along the bottle, you’ll see there’s a seam on each side. What you need to do is to run your ‘saber’ along the neck of the bottle, aiming to run through the ridge where the muselet sat (see previous Chain Gang blogs). Don’t try to hit the neck, just run your ‘saber’ along the neck, and ‘hit’ through the ridge at the point of the seam. And voila, the neck of the bottle will just disappear, complete with cork.

No glass ever goes inside the bottle – the bottle is under 5 Bar of pressure, about 75 Psi, nothing is getting inside the bottle!

4. Success
Here are two extra tips – have someone stood nearby with an empty glass. And ask them to keep a very close eye on where the cork and the top of the wine bottle land. Don’t aim at folk, and hopefully saber towards a lawn or something soft. If you’re a bit nervous, start out with Prosecco or Cava – it is terrific fun, I promise.

Last May in the Dordogne, we were lucky that Rob Thomas managed to capture the whole process on camera. Sat on the banks of the River Beaune, in the garden of the Moulin de la Beune, somebody must have raised an eyebrow, and before we knew it, we were sabering.

Textbook cork retrieval
5. Textbook cork retrieval
Cello (the lady, not the musical instrument) was the saberer, under the expert eye of Casey York. The sabre was a hotel room key, which I thought was ambitious (which is to say I’d have been a bit scared). But Cello stepped-up like a good’un and that cork was toast.

We’ve had plenty of sabering on The Chain Gang since May 2019 – I’m sure I’ve got some videos and photos to share, I’ll try to find them. Meanwhile, I urge you to give it a go – it’s really easy, it’s great fun, and that should be all you need to know!

Do click on the images to enlarge them – especially No. 4, look at the neck of the bottle, it’s just perfect. Thanks, Rob.

Yes, it tastes better if it is sabered, obviosuly
6. Yes, it tastes better if it is sabered, obviosuly
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