If you’re going to watch the Le Mans 24-hour motor race (usually run in June each year but for 2020 postponed until September) it’ll probably rain, rain champagne that is. Traditionally the winner’s bottle is sprayed into the crowd and we can thank the American racing driver, Dan Gurney, for starting it all over 50 years ago in 1967.
Standing on the victory podium, 36-year-old Dan accepted the winner’s bottle of Moët et Chandon champagne and began spraying the other drivers, press photographers, Henry Ford II, team manager Carroll Shelby and their wives. It was something nobody had ever done before, and it quickly became a race-winner’s tradition.
Since then hundreds of magnums and jeroboams have been sacrificed in celebration, which is a shame as champagne in big bottles matures rather well. These days Formula One drivers spray another champagne rather than Moët – the little known Carbon champagne brand made its debut appearance in June 2017 on the Monaco Grand Prix podium.
This follows a turbulent time during 2016 when Formula One winners sprayed sparkling chardonnay rather than champagne after the 15-year sponsorship deal with Mumm champagne came to an end.
So champagne is back – except in Bahrain, added to the Formula One calendar in 2004, in that Islamic country champagne is replaced by ‘Waard’ a specially-created non-alcoholic fizz made with pomegranate, trinj (a locally grown fruit) and rosewater.
That historic empty bottle ended up with LIFE photographer Flip Schulke, who used it as a lamp stand. Years later he gave it back to Gurney, who retired from racing in 1970 but, at the age of 86, is still running his own All American Racers operation in California. And the champagne tradition he started 50 years ago is still going strong.
PG Wine Reviews
Artusi Italian Merlot 2018
A simple and soft Merlot with flavours of vanilla and plum.
Barefoot Californian Chardonnay
£5.50 Tesco, £5.75 Sainsbury’s, £6 Morrisons
Attractive white rose aromas, along with some pear and peach, are lost in the over oaked flavour which makes it a rather sickly drink.
Tesco Finest Chilean Shiraz 2018
A complex and satisfying Shiraz. Full of fruity aromas and flavours: freshly picked damson with its floral overtones, plus cherry and cranberry. Then there is the milk chocolate, liquorice and spice on top of all that. It’s full of flavour.
Domaine Gayda French T’Air D’Oc Syrah 2019
£9 JN Wine, £9.95 The Champagne Company
Quite a restrained Syrah that comes alive once it’s been open a while. After about an hour the blackcurrant and violet flavours appear. This is good candidate for cellaring and keeping a while as the flavours are still developing in the bottle.
Rosa di Santa Tresa 2019, Italian rose
A really nice rose. Light and fruity with aromas of creamy strawberry followed by flavours of apple, lemon and pear.
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