While you may think that such a popular tradition has been around for Formula 1’s entire 63 years, the act of spraying Champagne from the winners podium after a race is a relatively young 46 years old.
Prior to 1967, the winning drivers were awarded a bottle of Champagne, which they would then sip from the bottle or their trophy cup.
The tradition changed after the Le Mans 24 hours race on June 11th 1967, when the Shelby-American team’s champion driver Dan Gurney stood on the winners podium.
He was so excited he began shaking the bottle and was soon spraying the contents over the other drivers, photographers and the gathered crowd.
“It was a very special moment at the time, I was not aware that I had started a tradition that continues in winner’s circles all over the world to this day,”
Mr Gurney said.
You may have experienced this tradition if you have ever taken a trip in a hot air balloon.
The custom of enjoying a glass of Champagne upon landing safely on the ground after a balloon flight is not an alcoholic celebration of a safe return to earth, but instead has a much more interesting origin.
The maiden hot air balloon voyages in France back in the 1780s often ended with the pilots and passengers landing in an unsuspecting farmer’s field.
Having never seen a man fly before, the farmers assumed these beings from the sky were demons and fearfully attacked them.
Hot air balloon pilots then began the tradition of travelling with two bottles of Champagne. One to extinguish a possible fire in the basket, and the other to present to the farmers to identify themselves as human.
Christening a ship
Perhaps one of the most well known Champagne traditions, smashing a bottle on a ship hull, is a custom that has been around in some form for centuries.
Flowing liquid on the hull of a ship before its maiden voyage is said to bring good luck and encourage safe journeys but wine was not always the first choice of fluid.
Vikings are said to have poured human blood on their boats as an offering made to the god of the sea. Fortunately, the more modern fare of wine and spirits has enjoyed a long history launching ships.
The Greeks traditionally drank wine, while pouring liquid overboard from a special cup was also once the norm.
Smashing a bottle of Champagne against the hull became the official tradition around 1890, with the launch of the USS Maine, the American Navy’s first steel battleship.
As impressive as it looks, this is certainly one we don’t recommend trying at home.
Sabering is the act of removing the cork (and the top of the bottle) from Champagne using a sabre (a one-sided cavalry sword).
While it’s an impressive and noble display, sabreing is definitely best left to the professionals, as even a difference in temperature by one or two degrees could cause the bottle to shatter.
But where did this tradition come from?
There are many legends and plenty of disagreement over the origins of sabreing. However, the custom known in France as sabrage is most likely to have come from Napoleon’s Cavalrymen.
While riding horses, they were passed bottles of Champagne but could not remove the foil, cage and cork without dismounting.
So instead, they simply pulled out their swords and knocked the tops off the bottles with one well-placed strike.
New Zealand is currently known for its Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir production, and according to Te Mata Estate director Nicholas Buck, it could very well become known for Gamay in the future.
GAMAY: A perfect fit for New-Zealand?
Nick Buck, Te Mata Estate’s Winemaker, believes that the Gamay grape is well-suited for the New Zealand terroir & climate.
Kiwis wine lovers already have a crush on Pinot Noir, so Gamay’s appeal seems like a no-brainer.
“Before Pinot Noir, there wasn’t really much of a market in New Zealand for light reds; the perception was that red wine should be black wine, 14 percent alcohol and pretty oaky. Pinot Noir introduced the concept thatred wine didn’t have to be a blockbuster; that’s been a good thing for all NZ and has allowed an opening for a wine like Gamay.” states Mr Buck.
New Zealand’s wine market is currently dominated by Sauvignon Blanc. Indeed, Sav Blanc accounts for 84.5 percent of the country’s wine exports, with the remaining 15.5 percent shared by other varietals.
Currently, Gamay doesn’t even make the list of the top wines grown throughout the country. After Sav Blanc, the next most common grape varieties grown are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
Who will decide?
Australia is New-Zealand’s biggest buyer of wines, with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and China following suit.
So the introduction of Gamay into the New-Zealand market will depend not only on the tastes of Kiwis but also Australians, Americans, British, Canadian and Chinese wine drinkers.
What exactly is Gamay?
Gamay came onto the scene in Burgundy in the 14th century, when it began taking vineyard space away from Pinot Noir.
Since that time, winemakers in the region have learned that Gamay has higher yields and is easier to grow than Pinot Noir, which has caused its popularity to grow.
Gamay’s light profile makes it appropriate for cool regions such as France’s Beaujolais and Loire Valley and now New-Zealand.
As for its flavour profile, Gamay tends to be relatively light, though this depends on the strain of Gamay a winemaker chooses to grow.
“The wines produced are naturally relatively high in acidity and can be light in both colour and tannin, which makes simple Gamays good drinks in their youth, and flattered by being served relatively cool.” MW Jancis Robinson stated.
Whether or not Gamay will catch on as a popular New-Zealand wine remains to be seen, but if you’re interested adding some Gamay to your wine collection, consider sampling Te Mata’s Gamay, any Beaujolais Gamay or even some drops from the Beechworth wine region.
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