There are traditions associated with wine that date back longer then the European settlement of New Zealand. One of those traditions is the sabering of champagne. A quick flick of the sword and off with its head.
According to Wikipedia the technique called sabrage became popular in France when the army of Napoleon visited many of the aristocrat domains. It was just after the French revolution (1789) and the sabre was the weapon of choice of Napoleon's fearsome cavalry (the Hussar). Napoleon's spectacular victories across all Europe gave them plenty of reason to celebrate. During these parties the cavalry would open the Champagne with their sabres. Napoleon probably encouraged this and is known to have said: "Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it."
Today sabrage is usually associated with ceremony so it is no surprise that New Zealand's number one sparkling wine producer, No. 1 Family Estate, with the generations of Champagne winemaking in the family, uses a sabre to launch new releases.
And so it was for the launch of the new No. 1 Rosť in Auckland the other night. Remy and Virginie Le Brun sabraged in unison and the corks flew. And I captured it on my digital camera. Perhaps this write-up should be Photo of the Week, rather than Wine of the Week - I can't believe I captured the action in such detail. It was Remy's first official sabrage and in the blown up photo, you can see the spurt of foam and the cork suspended in the air near the bottom left of the frame.
Then, after the ceremonies, the wine was poured.
No.1 Rosť is a beautiful light salmon pink in colour. Made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes it hints of strawberries and cherries yet has that nutty yeast complexity from the time the wine spent en tirage. A hum of acidity balances the sweetness and the wine has to be served well chilled. Extreme chilling is also needed for successful sabrage.
A night of wine and canapes - I heard the tempura batter oysters were exquisite with the Rosť but as I don't eat oysters I was happy with the duck pate canapes. I have another bottle here and I am going to try it with the No. 1 Rosť recommendations - Braised stuffed chicken thighs - stuffed with bacon, pinenuts, and herbs, then wrapped in prosciutto. There is also a strawberry rosť syllabub, made with strawberries, sugar, cream, Grand Marnier and No. 1 Rosť - this is having your wine and eating it too. Yum, I so want to make this it.
No. 1 Rosť is released next week and what a delightful wine for summer entertaining. It's going to cost in the vicinity of $45 a bottle.
Find out more from www.No1FamilyEstate.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
27 Oct 2009