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Monday, April 15, 2024

Poppin’ Fun

You could say Jane Owen has a bubbly personality. At a party, she’s the center of attention, holding a perfectly chilled champagne bottle in one hand and wielding a saber with the other. Guests stand back as she swings her saber along the bottle’s neck, slicing off the cork that shoots off like a rocket. It’s an impressive production — like a magician performing a trick that leaves the audience wide-eyed.

“I’ve done it more than 100 times, and I still get nervous each time I do it in front of people,” she says with a bright smile. “But it wouldn’t be as interesting, exciting, or fun if it wasn’t a little dangerous.”

Champagne is a drink she always has loved and been fascinated with. This passion brought her to the art of sabrage, which she has practiced for two years. The Newburgh, Indiana, mother of three now is an official member of Confrerie du Sabre d’Or, an organization devoted to sabrage.

After a family trip to Barcelona, Jane Owen was resolved to develop her knowledge of sparkling wines and champagne. For the past two years, she has practiced the art of sabrage, a technique to open bottles of champagne with a saber.

Sabrage traditionally is a ceremonial technique used to open bottles of champagne — its roots trace back to France during the time of Napoleon. Typically, a blunt blade of a sommelier saber is used to slice off the top of the bottleneck. The pressure inside the bottle combined with stress concentration points on the glass along the seam and at the lip allows the blade to slice the top of the bottle off, shooting the cork off.

“Because of the science and physics, sabrage can only be performed on sparkling wines that undergo a second fermentation inside the same bottle,” Owen explains.

She delved more into her interest of sparkling wines a few of years ago during a family trip to Barcelona. The family toured the Freixenet winery, the country’s leading producer of cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. She was captivated by the age-old traditions and culture behind the production process.

She enrolled in an online champagne class in August, participating in webinars with some of the world’s foremost experts, to further her knowledge of champagne. Not surprisingly, she says her next vacation will be in the Champagne region of France.

While she doesn’t hold sabrage classes, Owen offers her knowledge of the art to help raise funds for nonprofit organizations.

As much as she loves a party, Owen says there’s no need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy a flute of bubbly.

“Champagne has this opulence and decadence and romance — all these things that are very alluring,” says Owen. “Why can’t you celebrate just making it through Tuesday once in a while?”

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