A Breathless Experience: My First Time Breaking A Wine Bottle With a Saber

Have you seen a champagne or sparkling wine bottle being broken open with a saber? I have not, until I was very lucky to have a chance to try it at Breathless Wines, known for their traditional method (the original method for making Champagne) sparkling wine in Healdsburg when Dr. Thach and our group visited!

What is Sabering?

A saber is a type of sword with a curved blade associated with light cavalry in the early modern and Napoleonic periods. The technique of breaking open a champagne bottle using a saber, called “sabrage”, was popularized after the French Revolution, when Napoleon’s cavalries celebrated their victory by using sabers to open champagne bottles.

A saber breaking open a champagne bottle. Credit: Last Bottle Wines

Safety First!

For someone who has never held a saber, let alone cut a bottle open with one, it can be quite intimidating. Luckily, Breathless has very careful protocols guided by their friendly experts. I was led by Sharon, one of the Founding Sisters of Breathless Wines. The “Saberer” first puts on protective heavy duty gloves and safety goggles. Because of Covid-19, an extra pair of disposable gloves are worn before the heavy duty gloves, and of course I was masked up like everyone else. Also, using a cold bottle makes it easier to break.

The saber, cold Breathless Blanc de Noir bottle, and protective gear

Power Pose

Having the correct posture helps to wield power. To start, Sharon demonstrated how to stand sideways, almost like an archer, and hold the body (where the label sits) using my non-dominant hand. Of course, the bottle must be pointed far away from anyone – everyone needed to stand back!

Sharon demonstrating the power pose and how to hold the bottle.

Learning The Technique

Next, Sharon demonstrated the actual technique of holding the saber, and how to strike the bottle. With the saber in hand, the blade sits at an angle to the bottle, and I took a few turns running the blade along the bottle towards the lip, which is the breakage point.

How to hold a saber and where to guide it

Blast off!

Finally, the wire cage was taken off as an extra step to make it easier. Shortly after the demo, I was ready. My hand went faster than I was mentally prepared and POP! Went the top. I did not apply much force, and it felt a lot smoother than expected. Indeed, I read later that it is simply the force applied at a fragile point of the bottle – with already much internal pressure – that breaks it. Some wine was lost, but I held it up in victory, still shocked at what happened just seconds ago. I was relieved no one was hurt!

This happened within seconds!

Serving the Wine

What good is opening a wine if you can’t enjoy it? After sabering, make sure to check for shards before serving. We all got to enjoy a fresh glass afterwards!

Dr. Thach gets the first glass!

Certified Saberer!

Certificate and cork wrapped in Breathless Seal

Breathless Wines awards every Saberer with a “Certificate of Completion”, and the cork sealed with their signature Breathless label. I am really grateful for such an unforgettable experience, and hope to lose less wine next time!

Try it Yourself!

For more information and to schedule this exciting Sabrage Experience, please click here:
https://www.breathlesswines.com/Visit-Us/Sabrage-Experience

Not Just Your Average Canned Wine – Tips on Finding the Right One for You!

They are everywhere: from Trader Joe’s to online stores, pop-up bars to your friend’s party. Since Sofia Coppola’s pretty pink cans of blanc de blanc sparkling debuted in 2004, canned wines have exploded especially in the past few years. According to Nielsen, canned wine sales grew 69% year-on-year in 2018, and 79% in 2019. The variety is now diversified to seltzers, wine coolers offering “zero sugar” and “lower alcohol” options, even sake and more.

Sofia Mini Brut Rosé Coppola 4 Pack
Sofia Coppola’s Brut Rose.

The Case for Canned

Although canned wines often have no vintage, specific AVA or vineyard, and are not meant to age like fine wines, they are a great choice for many: it’s portable, chills faster, one can try something new without buying a whole bottle. Cans protect wines from oxygen and light, and a thin layer of plastic inside prevents imparting metallic flavors, which keeps white, rose and sparkling wines surprisingly well. Finally, they’re environmentally-friendly: aluminium cans are often recycled, and lighter weight means less carbon footprint during transport.

And contrary to what some critics say, it’s not just cheap wines that get put into cans – reputable vintners have been canning their wines too. That includes Sommelier and Wine Director of NoMad New York, Thomas Pastuszak, who started Vinny using exclusive Finger Lakes grapes, and ex-Sommelier Gina Schober of Sans Wine, who makes premium organic canned wines.

Credit: Vinny Wines.

My Positive Experiences with Drinking Canned Wines

My first canned wine was the much-hyped BABE rose, which I had seen across social media, and was excited to buy a pack at Vinexpo in Hong Kong 2017. Since then, I have tried canned Prosecco, Rose and Pinot Noir. I was very curious to find a canned Pet Nat from Nova Scotia, which is normally made by bottling before end of fermentation to preserve wild yeast and create light sparkling. Fermenting in a can is quite a feat! I’m also keen to try urban warehouse winery Infinite Monkey Theorem, who sources grapes from western Colorado and High Plains of Texas, and they’re available at my local BevMo.

2018 Benjamin Bridge pet-nat in 250mL can, $8.99 ea., available in Atlantic province liquor stores.
Benjamin Bridge Pet Nat 2019. Credit: Toronto Star.

Sizes of Cans and Drinking Tips

Canned wines come in a range of sizes, usually: 250ml, equal to 1/3 of a standard wine bottle, or 1.6 standard glasses; 375ml, roughly 2.5 glasses; 500ml, about 3.33 glasses. Just remember to share and drink responsibly, and finally, canned winemakers have noted a difference when you pour it in a glass, even if it’s plastic. Try for yourself!

Pink Prosecco is Coming in 2021!

Great news!  If you enjoy Prosecco, a new “pink version” called Prosecco DOC Rosé will make a sparkling debut in 2021. This past week the Prosecco DOC’s trade Consortium announced the hallmark decision by the Italian National Wine Committee to finally approve introduction of Prosecco DOC Rosé after years of discussion.

A Glass of Sparkling Pink Prosecco

Rules for Producing Prosecco DOC Rosé

While sparkling rosé wines are nothing new, Prosecco DOC wines, like Champagne, is a protected designation in which wines must follow strict regulations (such as percentage of grape varieties used and fermentation methods) to be labelled as such. The process of recognizing Prosecco DOC Rosé requires a decree which is now waiting to be published in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic. 

Production Requirements

Producers must follow rules to legally label their wine “Prosecco DOC Rosé”. Like Prosecco DOC, the primary grape used is Glera, with 10-15% Pinot Nero to achieve the color, which must be “pink, more or less intense, shining, and with a persistent foam”. Following the Martinotti / Charmant method, second fermentation must have a minimum of 60 days. Residual sugar levels are very low, from driest level “Brut Nature” (0-3 g/L) to second driest “Extra Dry” (0-6 g/L). Labels must state “Millesimato”, meaning “vintage”, using at least 85% grapes from that year. Finally, sales are allowed from the 1st of January after the harvest.

The Consortium estimates about 30 million bottles of Prosecco DOC Rosé will be produced annually. Therefore, you have something to look forward to purchasing in your favorite grocery store or wine shop early next year.

Great For Sharing on a Hot Summer Day

Prosecco Production Keeps Up With Growth Projections Amid Covid-19 Concerns

According to the Prosecco DOC Consortium, data from end of March showed that Prosecco DOC production quantities continue to meet expected demand to meet growth projections at least until the next harvest, despite current supply chain impacts of Covid-19. Available quantities ending April 1 amounted to at least 2,217,000 hectoliters, with an extra 550,000 hl in reserves from the 2019 vintage if demand increases.

Vineyard in Prosecco Region

Ongoing Challenges

However, multiple challenges remain which the Consortium is closely monitoring. According to Stefano Zanette, President of Prosecco DOC Consortium, the 2020 harvest is expected to have lower than average fertility. Additionally, producers with a short supply chain and those who do not operate with mass retailers are said to need greater financial and operational support. Overall wine consumption may decline as a direct result of Covid-19.

Supportive Measures

The Consortium Prosecco DOC emphasized their priority in maintaining market stability and preventing speculative actions, help producers increase liquidity for investment, and focus on producing higher value wines on a regional basis. The Consortium is prepared to implement legal and financial measures to support if the need arises.

About The Prosecco DOC Consortium

Prosecco

Prosecco was granted the Controlled Designation of Origin status on July 17th, 2009, and the Prosecco DOC Consortium (Consorzio di Tutela della Denominazione di Origine Controllata Prosecco) was created on November 19th of the same year to coordinate and manage the Prosecco DOC. The organization unites the different groups of manufacturers—wineries, individual and associated vine-growers, still wine and sparkling wine producers—to ensure the designation continues to grow and that the production regulations are complied with.

About Prosecco DOC

Prosecco DOC wines come in Spumante (sparkling), Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Tranquillo (still) varieties. The wines are made from mainly the Glera grape, native to North East Italy for thousands of years, and can be combined with a maximum of 15% of the following grapes: Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero. Prosecco Frizzante and Spumante varieties get their famous bubbles using the Secondary Fermentation production method, bottled under high pressure after fermentation in bulk tanks called autoclaves, as opposed to the traditional method, which bypasses the autoclaves and is used for other sparkling wine varieties. The end result is a brilliant straw yellow wine with fine, persistent perlage and aromas of white flowers, apple and pear. It is fresh and elegant on the palate with moderate alcoholic strength. For more information regarding Prosecco DOC, visit www.casaprosecco.com.–

Sparkling Wine, Port & Chocolate Truffle Tasting with Mumm and Sonoma Portworks

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

SSU Wine Sense Club Tasting

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Bring on the sparkle, chocolate, and the heady taste of port please! This was the siren’s call of a recent SSU Wine Sense Club meeting, where students were introduced to Olivia Najjar from Mumm Napa and Bill Reading from Sonoma Portworks!

About Mumm Napa

Most people recognize that Mumm Champagne was started in France, but Mumm has also been in Napa Valley for many years. The founding president and wine maker, Guy Devaux, worked with an architect in 1986 to create the Domaine Mumm facility in Rutherford. Three years later the first vintage of DVX, in honor of Guy, was produced.

mummIn 1990 the winery underwent a name change from Domaine Mum to Mumm Napa, and officially opened up to the public. In 2002, Ludovic Dervin was named head winemaker and has worked on many custom projects, such as a collaboration with Carlos Santana to create a series of customized sparkling wines to benefit the Milagro Foundation. Mumm was recognized in 2012 as the first sparkling winery to receive 94 pointes from the Wine Spectator for their 2004 DVX.

Olivia poured four of their most popular sparkling wines; the 2010 Blanc de Blancs, 2007 DVX and a non-vintage Brut Rosé and Demi Sec. 

About Sonoma Portworks

Next we welcomed Bill Readings, the owner and portmaker at Sonoma Portworks, the first place in Sonoma County to make port. He explained that his love of port began accidentally when chocolate essence was dropped into an after dinner wine. Suddenly, Bill was obsessed with creating the perfect chocolate port, which later became the first in the country.

petaluma-roomSonoma Portworks is also responsible for revolutionizing traditional port packaging, through the use of sleek contemporary bottles and labels. The first tasting room was opened in 2002 in Kenwood, but today do the only taste room in Petaluma.

Bill brought three different ports for us to try; Petite Verdot port, Petite Sirah port, and Deco port. 

Favorites Wines of the Evening

Mumm_WineBottles_NoVintage_BdeBlancs-LG_f1f8decoAt the end of the tasting, the students voted on their favorite sparkling and port wines.  The winners were:

  • Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs 2010 ($42) made up of mostly Chardonnay and some Pinot Gris. Light and fruity, Blanc de Blancs means “white of whites”.
  • Sonoma PortWorks Deco Port ($20, 500ml) – composed of Zinfandel grapes blended with Grenache, Alicante Bouschet and natural chocolate essence.

We cannot thank Olivia and Bill enough for taking time to show us their amazing wines!