This is no royal event or a procession at church. But it is solemn, and to be frank, rather peculiar. In pairs, council members of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or, Singapore file into The Fullerton Hotel’s basement ballroom, all of them in elaborate emerald robes and with a sabre held in their white-gloved hands.
In a few moments, Grand Maître Jean-Claude Jalloux will induct new members into the international champagne order whose literal translation means “The Brotherhood of The Golden Sabre”. It may be a brotherhood, but as today’s 12 tables soon witness, the bubbly-enthusiasts do welcome women into its ranks: One stroke of a sabre against the neck of an Ayala Brut Majeur jeroboam (3L) bottle saw Motomi Imaseki, in a pale turquoise gown to match her ribbon and medals, elevated to the rank of Commandeur — the top promotion of the evening.
The ceremony “gives an air of history and heritage, a sense of drama and grandeur, and a feeling of being part of a brotherhood that stretches back centuries to when champagne was created,” Vice Ambassadeur Eugene Yang, a private banker known also for his love of music, explains.
The art of sabrage is said to have started during the Napoleonic era with the mounted French Dragoons, who, in victory, would grab a bottle of champagne in one hand, and with the other, slice it open with a sword.
Though established in 2011, the Singapore Chapter languished for some years until its revival in early 2018. It now has some 65 members and stages champagne dinners almost monthly. Worldwide, the brotherhood has 33,000 members.
There is only one other champagne society in Singapore — The Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, the official fraternity of the major champagne houses. The Confrérie differentiates itself by its practice and promotion of sabrage and its freedom to explore all of Champagne’s liquid assets, including boutique grower champagnes, which unrestrained by big bucks house-style, often take a more terroir-based approach to winemaking.
But beyond all that geekery and pomp, what the Confrérie really offers is camaraderie.
As chapter head, Ambassadeur David Jen, a noted gynaecologist with a fondness for eye-catching eyewear, tells me, “having a brotherhood of friends, bonded by shared interests and love cannot simply be described but must be felt and enjoyed with every encounter, and measured by the happiness felt by each member and the improvement in the health and longevity which many studies have proven. Loneliness is the ultimate poverty, but with champagne — you’re never alone.”
With constant chatter and mingling, the evening certainly had a convivial air. Something you might expect especially when the master of ceremonies for the evening — Confrérie member Mike Gray — reminds all in attendance that “1.2 bottles of champagne per person” had been prepared.
At the ready to complement The Fullerton Hotel’s individually-plated Chinese menu were bottles of Ayala, Delamotte, Perrier-Jouët, Pierre Gimmonnet and Krug. And just as Gray had also predicted, “the noise level goes up exponentially with the amount of champagne drunk.”
By 11pm, I found myself wondering: Does the world need another members-only society where regalia and rank medallions are the rage? No. But was it a splendid evening among friends? Certainly. And fellowship is what the Confrérie is about. Santé!