I love sparkling wine. I enjoy the bubbles. The festivity that it embodies and the joy that ensues. There is something special about sparkling wine. The yeasty flavor and tingling sensation on my tongue makes me a Sparkling fanatic.
This article isn’t about the difference between Champagne and Sparkling. It’s not about how Prosecco differs from Cava. Instead it is about the science of Sparkling wine and why those of us infatuated with sabrage never fear drinking glass.
Everyone is a virgin at one time. I had seen so many people saber and always thought to myself, “I so want to do that!” I figured it had to be difficult, that there had to be some kind of trick. And, in all honesty, I was more than a bit scared that I would injure myself. This fear kept me away from my first attempt for quite some time.
But one day, I decided it was time to end my saber virginity. In retrospect, it may not have been the smartest or decision I have ever made, since I decided to do it while Mike was on a golf trip. Since my biggest fear was slicing my hand open and bleeding profusely, it would have been smarter to do it while Mike was home so he could drive me to the hospital. Plus that would leave him to explain my stupidity to the emergency room doctors.
As you can see, I was extremely shocked that it worked and I didn’t take my first venture lightly. Vegas was safely inside the house and I was wearing protective eye gear and a special glove. (I may have gone overboard) Much to my mother’s chagrin, I may not be as cautious anymore, but I still get excited every time I do it!
Now that I know the tricks I feel much more secure in my sabrage skills. And I’m going to share these so-called “tricks” so you can join in on the fun!
1- Make sure the bottle neck is COLD!!!! Have you ever seen someone trying to saber and the bottle shatters in their hands? Well, that is because the bottle wasn’t cold enough.
2- Remove the label. When you go to saber, you will need to see the seam and that’s tough to find with the label still glued on.
3- Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle when you are ready to saber. This helps eliminate the loss of the precious liquid inside. (You should do this even if you are opening a bottle the boring way.)
4- If using a knife, you are actually supposed to use the back of it, not the blade. I didn’t do this on my first attempt. It can actually nick the blade of your expensive butcher knife!
5- Line your knife up against the seam of the bottle, get some rhythm in your movement and saber away! It’s that easy!
The Big Question
Have you ever heard of blaseology? There are a lot of “ologies” out there, and with my science background, I have studied many, but no where on any curriculum did I ever see blaseology. It is the science of bubbles! How awesome is that? A group of French physicists and chemists created the term in order to study the formation of bubbles in sparkling wine.
Carbon dioxide is what causes those lovable bubbles. Any winelover knows that fermentation is the process in which yeast consumes sugar and converts it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. But what makes sparkling wine different from still wine is that in the production of sparkling wine, there is a second fermentation that takes place and it is this gas that is trapped inside the bottle, dissolved in the wine. Legally, sparkling wine must be at least 1 ATM and greater than .392 CO2/100ml. however, it is more typical that the pressure inside the bottle can reach up to 6 bars, which is approximately 90 pounds per square inch (PSI) — about five times that of the atmosphere and approximately three times the pressure in the tires of your car.
It is this pressure that is held in equilibrium while the bottle is sealed that allows us to saber and not be concerned with sipping slivers of glass. The potential energy inside the bottle is waiting to be converted to kinetic energy. Once you open the container, that equilibrium is eliminated and there is an excess of gas in the liquid. The reason the cork flies is because some of the energy stored in the closed champagne bottle is released as kinetic energy. Think how fast a balloon escapes your hand when the air is released. That is only about 15 PSI versus the 90 PSI found in Sparkling wines. So, just as the balloon flies away when the air is released, the cork flying, as well as any tiny chards of glass that may have splintered off during your saber, will also propel quite a distance away from your newly sabered bottle.
So what are you waiting for?! Go saber!! But please do me a favor and let me know how it goes!
PSA – although you will not have any slivers of glass to worry about, please do not rub your hand on the top of the bottle or drink directly from it, as there may be a sharp edge.