Usually, the champagne flows after the trophies but at the second annual Jeté Sabrage competition, it was the main event!
Hosted by Howard Park Wines at The Rechabite in Northbridge, the sabrage event on August 18 saw the bubbly flow in glasses as well as on stage for members of the hospitality industry and media.
Sabrage is the practice of opening bottles of champagne with a sabre by running the blade along the neck, with the strike of the blunt blade and the internal pressure resulting in the cork and glass collar flying cleanly off. While the exact origins of sabrage are lost to time and rumour, it gained popularity during the Napoleonic Wars with the flamboyant French hussars opening bottles with their cavalry sabres.
Societies have since grown around the world to practice the art of sabrage but Perth’s event saw not proficient but eager first-timers take champagne sabres in hand.
At the inaugural event, last year more than 300 bottles were sabred, with estimates from this year looking at nearly double that figure.
Hannah Dolphin, from event organisers DGPR, said the event was a celebration of the wine industry and was originally launched to bring a unique event to Perth.
“Howard Park was looking for something a little different that had never been done in Perth and they had such an extensive range of Jeté [champagne],” she said.
“It was such a hit last year that it was decided to bring it back.”
Before the competition went underway, everyone in the crowd was given the chance to top a bottle themselves.
Assistants on the stage gave tips to those giving it a go with perfect cuts leaving a clean slice of cork and glass collar flying off as one. The eager sabreurs were heavily gloved and wore safety glasses to shield against the sometimes unexpectedly messy results of their attempts.
The competitive end of the night was soon underway with 17 competitors faced with eight bottles lined in a row and the quickest time in sabreing them all would take the prize. As well the title, the winner of the event received a bottle of magnum and a champagne sabre customised with their name.
Some took to the bottles with careful strikes, while others hacked with vivacity. In the end, second and third were 0.2 of a second apart, while the winner was a full two seconds quicker. Matthew Lehman of the WA Ballet took the coveted title of champion sabreur with a lightning time of 11.79 seconds.
Thankfully as the night closed there was still plenty of bubbly left for him to celebrate with!