Last month, we judged our second-annual Sunset International Wine Competition, which involved 49 judges tasting nearly 3,000 wines over the course of two days—and mind-boggling logistics behind the scenes (washing and re-washing 4,000 glasses, pouring just the right wine into each one of them every time … ). But get a group of wine pros like that in one room, and it’s not all serious business; entertainment is bound to break out.
On one panel specializing in sparkling wine, talk turned to the Napoleonic-era tradition of making quick work of popping off the top of a bottle of Champagne by just using your saber (seems the traditional, slower drama is unhandy on horseback). The panel being saber-less that day, one member—Eugenio Jardim, wine director at Jardinière in San Francisco—offered to go out back and do the deed on a bottle with a common chef’s knife. He pulled it off but, if you have an 18th-century saber that needs a job, all I can say is, make sure your bottle of bubbly is very, very cold and has been resting still for quite some time.