Fizzy wine wins the Formula 1 champagne wars


Formula One, fast cars and fizz make an alluring combination at the Monaco Grand Prix but the drawn-out shout of ‘Champaaaagne!’ will be absent when the corks pop on the podium after this year’s race.

Drivers will still be spraying bubbly over themselves and anyone else in range, but the podium announcer’s wording has had to undergo a subtle change because another sparkling wine, not produced in the Champagne, region is now being used.

Wine can only be called ‘champagne’ if it is harvested and produced in the eastern French region. The cry now is a call for ‘celebration’ — a formula used at grands prix in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain were non-alcoholic rosewater is sprayed.

Mumm, the Pernod Ricard-owned house from France’s Champagne region, ended a 15-year partnership with Formula One last year and has taken its distinctive red-ribboned jereboams to the Formula E electric series instead.

Chandon, a Moet Hennessy-owned sparkling wine that sponsors McLaren and has vineyards in Argentina, the United States, Brazil, Australia, India and China, has stepped in as replacements without fanfare.

“I’ve known the people (at Moet Hennessy) for many, many years,” Formula One’s 85-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters, confirming Chandon would be used all season.

“I think they get a lot more coverage with what they do at a race than on a car, actually. It’s very visible, that’s the important thing.”

Moet were Formula One’s official Champagne supplier before Mumm came in.

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Mumm brand director Louis De Fautereau said there had been discussions to continue with Formula One, whose Monaco showcase is conducted against a backdrop of yachts and luxury hotels with plenty of fizz flowing, but they came to nothing.

“We presented an offer to Formula One Management and they came back very late,” he told Reuters. “And that’s why we decided to focus on Formula E and the innovative dimension of Formula E.

“We’ve been in motorsport for decades and for us it’s always been a fabulous manner to show to the world our brand…as the true icon of victory.”

De Fautereau said Mumm saw Formula E, with its races in city centres attracting a very different crowd attracted by new technology, as the future.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the event that started motorsport’s post-race Champagne spraying tradition, even if 1967 is generally regarded as the first time it was actually done on purpose.

At the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours race, Swiss driver Jo Siffert accidentally sprayed the crowd when the cork shot out of a bottle of Moet warmed up by the sunshine.

The following year, American race winner Dan Gurney recreated the moment and deliberately shook the bottle to cheers from the crowd.