On Barcelona, the weekly supplement from El Periódico, published a feature about Cava Sabrage at Savour Academy! I have translated the article for my anglophone audience here (ok mum?!). For the full article in Spanish or Catalan here’s the link.
A Workshop that Teaches You to Sabre Cava!
As if you were the lovechild of Zorro and Chicote, at this wine academy you’ll learn to open bottles of cava with a sabre with about as much ease as popping to the shop for milk.
A samurai would go more unnoticed here than Boris Johnston in a playschool. In ten minutes flat you find yourself with sword in hand. Your eyes more screwed up than when trying to decipher a Whatsapp from your mum “I’m going to do what??”. The Spanish saying “to be put between the sword and the wall” (between a rock and a hard place) becomes literal. You are in between the sword, the wall and the bottle of cava. “Sabre the Moment” it reads on the wall. Thankfully this moment is shared with the rest of the group…you’ll all be inviting each other to cava afterwards.
“The most popular way to do this is with a Samurai sword” says Zara as if talking about knives and forks. Zara Patterson is a sommelier but manages a sword with the ease of Jon Snow. She is 37, with an Irish accent and the tired eyes of a new mother. She opened shop two years ago in what is now Savour Academy (C/Farell 12, Barcelona 08014). The uncorking academy. You can see the marks on the tiles from the impact of flying corks. But the logo is a dog? “It’s a Bodeguero (wine cellar dog)” laughs the owner. She organises cooking classes, pairing events, wine tastings. And since a year ago she also teaches how to sabre bottles of cava.
“You are crazy” she told her colleague when she suggested it. Until she tried it out. Sabrage is the name in French. Sabring, consists of uncorking a bottle of typically champagne (here we use cava), as if you were the embodiment of all Three Musketeers at once. There are people in the world who can do it with watches, mobile phones, or even a ladle, tells Zara. There is a brotherhood in France to regulate Sabrage (Confrérie su sabre d’or), with specific sabres for uncorking and an olde worlde vocabulary that dreams up knights in armour.
Zara de-romanticises the sabre “This is actually a machete” she points out. And she hits the blade edge on her arm “It’s not sharp” she says, “This works better for sabrage”.
Pop! The first top comes flying off in less time it takes to tie your shoelaces. Zara gives out the first glasses of cava and tells the tales behind the sabring legend. “It goes back to Napoleonic times” tells Zara. Napoleon was a great champagne drinker. “In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it” is one of his most famous quotes about bubbly. But does everyone manage to do it? “Almost”, responds Zara, “About 99.99%”. But honestly, without any sexism intended” she adds, “women tend to succeed more than guys”. It seems that men clench a sword as if they’re in Mordor guarding five rings. “And it’s not about force” details the sommelier. “It’s like a tennis serve, you have to do it with fluidity and speed”.
It’s your turn! Zara hands you the bottle and shows you the weak points. You need to find one of the seam lines that run up the bottle “If we hit it here (where the seam line meets the neck) the strength of the bottle is weaker by 50% and the pressure inside the bottle does the rest of the work”.
You put your thumb on the line near the label “To know where it is” and hold the bottle steady with the rest of your hand. It’s heavy and you have to position it as low as you can “So you have more space to move”. Now Zara hands you the sword. You hold it like a warrior in pose, you’re thinking “Hi, I’m She-Ra”. You let the sword lean on the bottle, forming a cross, Zara indicates: “The machete and the bottle should be at a 45 degree angle, and the bottle 45 degrees from the floor”. You’re pointing at a green circle on the wall “So that you look up” justifies the sommelier, “When you play tennis, you need to look at your opponent, not at the ball”.
“3, 2…Look up…Move the sword forward as straight as possible…1…” You take another breath and…POP! Wow, what an adrenaline rush! You share out the cava with the same pride as if you just saved humanity from a zombie apocalypse.
Zara gives you the cork still encrusted with the neck of the “guillotined” bottle, some sandpaper to smooth the edges and a ring to turn it into a keyring keepsake.
A hundred or so people have already taken this workshop. Why do they want to do it? “Because it’s something different, empowering and fun” says Amanda, machete in hand. “Because I think that I can’t do it” says Angelika, “And I want to prove myself wrong”. And yes, she does so.
You finish the workshop with a little certificate denoting “sabrage connoisseur” and an epic sensation. We are now on the fifth bottle that has been uncorked at the hand of the machete. The fifth glass that is filled with heroism. Theshe peeeple are your besssssht friendsssshh wowee”.
Original Article 27th September 2019 by Ana Sanchez at El Periodico. Translation by Zara Patterson.