Dan Gurney and the Champagne Bath

Dan Gurney and the Champagne Bath

by Westgarth Wines December 01, 2020

It is a familiar sight to us now—the pop of a cork by someone celebrating a winning race, a promotion, a marriage. We all associate a joyous burst of bubbles with success. While those who buy premium wine might shake their heads at wasting good Champagne, perhaps it is not a waste to end up bathed in it. This show of luxury was not always the norm, however.

How did the spray of fizz become a tradition? It is a more recent development than you might imagine. In 1966, Swiss driver Jo Siffert won the race car competition Le Mans in a stylish Porsche 906. Le Mans is a legendary race that lasts 24 hours. The car that covers most territory in this time is the winner.

It is held around the longest day of the year, when sunlight and temperatures are at their peak. It was traditional to give Champagne to the winner on the podium. However, that year perhaps someone let the bottle sit in the sun for too long. The heat no doubt ramped up the pressure in the bottle and, upon receiving his prize, the cork burst. Siffert accidentally bathed the crowd in bubbles.

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While most fans politely looked past Siffert’s gaffe, the next year American Dan Gurney purposefully gave his bottle a good shake and sprayed a whole magnum of NV Moët & Chandon upon winning. A magnum is twice the size of a standard bottle of wine - that’s a lot of froth to spray! Let’s hope there was some left to drink. Gurney commented: “I was so stoked when they handed me the magnum of Moët & Chandon, I shook the bottle and began spraying at the photographers, driver, Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby and their wives. It was a very special moment at the time, I was not aware that I had started a tradition that continues in winners’ circles all over the world to this day”.

Gurney signed the bottle for photographer Flip Schulke. Schulke held onto the bottle for decades. At one point he had it turned into a lamp! However, he eventually returned it to Gurney, who kept it until his death in 2018. If you want a taste of victory, try some of these bottles from the house of Moët & Chandon out for yourself. Of course, spraying them is not compulsory.

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