Most reviews of sparkling wine you've ever read, opine on the flavor. The scent. The mouthfeel. The heritage. Those reviews are important, yes. But this one is different.
Here, we are focused on one thing, and one thing only: what's the best bubbly for sabring? When you're throwing a party and want to make sure you are well stocked for the evening, what should you buy? In evaluating each type of sparkling's suitability for sabring, we'll answer a few questions:
- How effortless is it to excise the top from the bottle?
- How explosive is the ceremony?
- However easy is the setup?
- How many bottles can you sabre before going bankrupt?
We've got decades of experience on the matter. So we are sharing our hard-earned wisdom.
What to Look For
Pressure Inside the Bottle
Sabrage works by using the natural pressure inside of sparkling wine bottles created by carbonation. The more CO2 in the wine, the higher the pressure and the easier it will be to sabre.
Sparkling wine made using the traditional method (or méthode champenoise if you're French) is best for sabring because it is under very high pressure. The method creates carbonation through a second fermentation, without the wine ever leaving the bottle. After the first fermentation where the wine is created and then blended into a cuvee, it is bottled with a small amount of yeast and sugar, and aged (for at least 15 months in the case of Champagne). The aging causes carbonation — perfect for sabring.
The only downside is that the traditional method is expensive. The most popular and cost-effective alternative is the Charmat method, where the second fermentation happens inside a tank over a few weeks. This method is used to make prosecco and many other varieties of sparkling.
Wines carbonated using the Charmat method are under less pressure than those made with the traditional method (~4 atmospheres of pressure, vs ~6 atmospheres) which makes them less well suited to sabring.
A Proper Champagne-style Top
There's a reason people don't sabre beer. And it's not because no one wants to. Buy a sparkling with a traditional Champagne-style bottle top. Screw-tops or flip tops don't work.
Quality Bottle Glass
Make sure your bottle is made with quality glass. The vast majority of sparkling wine bottles will be more than good enough for your sabre. However, we've seen a people sabre with $4 gas station bubbly and end up with shattered glass as a result of poor bottle quality.
If you're throwing a party, buy a few bottles of good champagne for your first few sabres. Switch to the cheap stuff for later in the night. By your 10th bottle, no one can tell the difference between a $15 local sparkling and Dom Perignon anyway.
What to use
Below, we've ranked our favorite sparking wine for sabring, from best to worst.
Use Champagne if you can. It's the best. The original. It's under high pressure, bottled well and delicious. The only downside is the price. So maybe start with champagne earlier in the night, and switch to something else later.
Spanish Cava is our favorite value sparkling wine. By law — in order to use the name Cava — it must be made using the traditional method. So it's always under high pressure and easy to sabre. In addition, Cava is aged for a minimum of 9 months, which produces richer more complex flavors.
Franciacorta — the real champagne of Italy — is made in the Franciacorta region of the country. The region has been making wine since the 13th century, and like Champagne, is governed by strict rules about which grapes can be used and what processes employed. Like Champagne and Cava, it's always made using the traditional method, and aged for at least 18 months (vs 15 months for champagne).
Any Wines Made with the Traditional Method
In general, most sparkling wine made using the traditional method is of high quality and under high pressure. To find out if the bottle you're looking at is made this way, look for any of these labels: traditional method, method traditionelle, méthode champenoise, metodo classico, metodo tradizionale, methode cap classique.
Italian Bubbly with 'Spumante' on the bottle
Spumante means sparkling or fizzy in Italian. This indicates the bottle is carbonated with high pressure.
Generic Sparkling Wine
Look. If we're honest, you can saber the vast majority of sparkling wines. We prefer using the types listed above. However, if I had a chilled bottle of California Brut on hand, I would reach for our Sabre in an instant. Just make sure the bottle is cold.
What not to use
'Frizzante' means lightly sparkling in Italian. Don't use it. The pressure in the bottle is not high enough, which means the top won't come off
Sparkling Red Wine (like Lambrusco)
Messes are good. Messes you can't clean up are bad. Don't use red wine.