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Champagne: Behind The Traditions

Champagne is often used to celebrate important occasions but some of them seem a little bizarre, so what's the story behind them?

 F1 Racing podium showers

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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.


Champagne Flight

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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

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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.



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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.

Posted by The Vintec Club

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The Vintec Club is the private club for owners of Vintec and Transtherm wine cellars, and the ultimate online ressource for wine enthusiasts who wish to learn more about the arts of wine collecting, cellaring and serving.
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