The Legends of The Noble Art of Sabrage
There are several legends of the story of Sabrage or Sabering Champagne.
One says that when the officers of Napoleon’s army returned home after a victory, cheering townspeople would hand bottles of Champagne as tokens of their appreciation for their victory and gallantry.
Since the soldiers were mounted on horseback it was difficult to hold the reins of the horse and remove both the foil, wire basket (muselet) around the cork and the cork (bouchon) at the same time, so the soldiers simply took out their sabers and struck it against the lip of the bottle with an upward blow and sabered off the cork. Voilà!
Another says Mme. Clicquot (the widow Clicquot), in order to have her land protected, gave Napoleon's officers Champagne and glasses. Being on their horses, they couldn't hold the glass while opening the bottle. Consequently, they tossed the glasses away, and took their sabers out and sabered off the top and cork and drank from the bottle. Voilà!
In more scientific terms, it is the meeting of the glass lip (annulus) at the top of the bottle just below the cork (bouchon) with a firm tap of a sabre's edge and at the weakest point of the glass seam in the bottle. When performed on a suitably chilled bottle of Champagne, the cork and glass annulus fly away, spilling little of the precious Champagne. The pressure inside a bottle of Champagne (100psi) ensures that no glass falls back into the bottle making it safe to drink the spoils.
There may be no dashing dragoons, happy hussars or lascivious lancers to saber the bottle, except for a few of us that have continued this proud tradition. I consider the sabre a good substitute for the sprained wrist and napkin when opening the bottle and, more especially, a very spectacular way of celebrating CHAMPAGNE!
As such, "The Noble Art of Sabrage" was born and the rest, they say, is history.