Dan GurneyIf you’re celebrating Father’s Day by going to Le Mans to watch the 24-hour motor race this weekend 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 in 1967.

Dan GurneyStanding 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.

champagne topSince 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 Mumm champagne rather than Moët, 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 80, is still running his own All American Racers operation in California. And the champagne tradition he started 40-odd years ago is still going strong.

And if you need some practice, try opening these tasty bottles of champagne.

PG Wine Tips

Dubois Caron NV Champagne

£12 Asda (or rosé version for £19)

Don’t expect anything too sophisticated.

Pierre Darcys NV Champagne Brut

£12 Asda

A better sparkler for 12 quid.

Aubert et Fils NV Champagne

£12.99 Co-op (down from £29.99 until June 23)

Fruity and elegant. Seems a shame to spray it around.

Co-op Les Pionniers NV Champagne

£15.99 Co-op (down from £19.99 until July 3)

Apple aromas followed by simple citrus flavours. Named after The Co-op’s founders, the Rochdale Pioneers. Which makes you wonder why The Co-op didn’t make it an English, or even a Lancashire, sparkling wine.

Piper Heidsieck NV Champagne

£19.99 Co-op (down from £29.99 until June 23), £22.49 Sainsbury’s (down from £29.99 until July 3)

Lemon, strawberry and white bread flavours.

Lanson Rosé NV Champagne

£25.99 Morrisons (down from £35.99 until July 8)

Well it’s pink isn’t it.

Taittinger Brut Reserve NV

£28.49 Sainsbury’s (down from £37.99 until July 3)

Posh stuff with a honey finish.

Related articles: Spray it again Time lapse series of pictures showing Dan Gurney restling with that original bottle then opening it.

This article has also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on MatureTimes.co.uk

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