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Old 06-13-2010, 05:45 PM
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Why do some champagne bottles explode/shatter in your hands?

I've recently become interested in the art of sabrage, that is, opening champagne (or beer, if you must) with a sabre or chef's knife. Essentially, the technique involves applying a buncha pressure to the point of stress on a bottle, where the seam meets the lip, so that the top is separated from the rest and the bottle is opened.

This gentlemen demonstrates the basic idea quite eloquently.

I've been practicing lately and getting quite good at the technique (although this weekend I struggled with very-cheap bottles that seemed to be made differently, any thoughts???). I anticipate doing this a lot more, and so I would like to see if I can't avoid this happening. Can anyone tell me why the bottle in that video shattered?

Last edited by Logical Phallacy; 06-13-2010 at 05:49 PM.
Old 06-14-2010, 12:15 AM
Oly Oly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Logical Phallacy View Post
I've recently become interested in the art of sabrage, that is, opening champagne (or beer, if you must) with a sabre or chef's knife. Essentially, the technique involves applying a buncha pressure to the point of stress on a bottle, where the seam meets the lip, so that the top is separated from the rest and the bottle is opened.

This gentlemen demonstrates the basic idea quite eloquently.

I've been practicing lately and getting quite good at the technique (although this weekend I struggled with very-cheap bottles that seemed to be made differently, any thoughts???). I anticipate doing this a lot more, and so I would like to see if I can't avoid this happening. Can anyone tell me why the bottle in that video shattered?
Having never heard of this practice before encountering your post (thanks for expanding my universe a tad), and being that the only examples of it I have seen are the two videos to which your post links -- one a master who gives us a brief history of the practice, has a dedicated implement for its execution, and carries the deed off with suave aplomb; the other, by contrast, a novice at best and more likely hack dabbler who employs a turned around vegetable chopper and prefaces his flailing effort with "...he said something about..." -- I am confident I can pontificate with that special conviction and patness afforded only to the ignorant: It's the difference between squeezing the trigger and pulling it, respectively.
Old 06-14-2010, 04:36 AM
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My guess here would be that the blade hit the glass, not the stopper.
Old 06-14-2010, 06:14 AM
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My guess is that he didn't hit the bottle lip hard enough. I think it works like this - The blade contacts the lip of the bottle, causing a horizontal crack. Momentum from the sabre and internal pressure keeps forcing the cork and rim out, so the crack continues to run around the neck, breaking the rim and cork away. If the initial crack is not clearly horizontal or right through, then (because glass is amorphous) the internal pressure causes the cracks to grow in random directions, making the bottle explode. The other possibility is that the knife chipped the bottle on the seam on the way up, and provided an additional shatter zone once the rim was hit.

And I wouldn't like to do this with beer, for fear that the internal pressure is not enough to wash any glass chips away. But if you gave me a large supply of sparkling wine, I'd love to do the sort of research that quantifies the impact parameters for a successful attempt.

Si
Old 06-14-2010, 09:13 AM
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I have been told that you should really only do this with French champagne (redundant, I know) because the bottles are thicker. That suggests that there are thinner bottles which obviously might shatter.
Old 06-14-2010, 09:22 AM
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Zsofia: Your comment is inline with anecdotal evidence from the guys who made the bottle explode in the video, they were experimenting on behalf of Wired Magazine to produce this article. Apparently the bottle that didn't make it was indeed American.

When I experimented with ultra-cheap french bottles (mind you the knife I was using was somewhat puny) I found they just didn't show any response. Decent Champagne appeared to at least chip when struck if not done properly (when done properly the top comes off in one strike every time).
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