The curtain has fallen on the 2022 F1 season, and on the podium at the Abu Dhabi finale world champion Max Verstappen toasted runners-up Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez with non-alcoholic rose water. Where’s the party in that, you ask? Due to the same alcohol laws that are stifling celebrations for us boozy Brits at the World Cup in Qatar, F1 races in Muslim states – the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – require the drivers to lay off the sauce until they get back to their hotels.
Once back in those safe confines, they drink real champagne… actually, no they don’t. It’s Formula One that’s made champagne spraying celebrations de rigueur inside the world’s more obnoxious nightclubs. But they’ve now switched from the best-known brands in Reims and Epernay to an Italian sparkling vino that sounds pretty racey anyway: Ferrari.
No relation to the red cars tearing around the circuit, Ferrari Trento was founded in 1902 at the foot of the Dolomites, in Trento, Italy. The vineyard creates award-winning sparkling wine from Chardonnay grapes according to the traditional methode Champenoise. In its cellars rest over 24 million bottles fermenting from two to 15 years.
Among Ferrari’s vines, you’ll find the region’s finest food. I ate seaweed and tumeric butterfly in a bowl of flowers, and local canestrato cheese, served like a cigar with chocolate ash.
Don’t confuse Trento with Prosecco, or Franciacorta or Lambrusco, for that matter. Trento (or Trentodoc) is its own thing, and superior to most of the fizz you’ll find under £50 on the supermarket shelf. It’s organic, crisp and bursting with lively flavours.
Trento itself is well worth a visit. An hour’s drive north from Verona airport, it’s one of Italy’s most prosperous cities and boasts attractive late medieval and renaissance architecture restored to their original pastel colours, centered around its Romanesque-gothic 12th century duomo, and its buzzing bars and restaurants spilling onto a handsome piazza.
The vineyards are located on the hillsides to the west of Trento. Here, among Ferrari’s vines, you’ll find one of the region’s finest restaurants. The Locanda Margon is led by 33-year-old chef Edoardo Fumagalli. The wines served here all come from the Lunelli family’s portfolio, which includes Ferrari, and they own the restaurant to boot. These pair with some of the most creative dishes I’ve ever seen, vivid in colour as well as taste. My amuse bouche was a seaweed and tumeric butterfly served in a bowl of flowers. Local canestrato cheese is served like a cigar with chocolate ash. Spaghetti is cooked in a fragrant infusion of hibiscus and geranium. Beer sorbet with a wafer arrives hanging from a helium balloon. Sweets are served on a chunk of amethyst. Incredible theatre that compliments rather than distracts from the food and wonderful bubbles.
If you wish to go the whole hog and unleash your Lewis Hamilton, an F1-sized jeroboam of Ferrari Brut will set you back £340. The company also makes limited edition bottles of Blanc de Blancs dedicated to specific races, such as Miami, Mexico City, and the Northamptonshire village of Silverstone (available from £30). Elton John’s been known to serve it at his legendary shindigs, and although it only found its way onto the F1 podium permanently in the past year (with a sponsorship deal running through 2025) its first appearance came at the 1981 Italian Grand Prix, through a one-off arrangement, where it was lapped up by a thirsty Alain Prost.
This season alone, 76 jeroboams of Ferrari Trento were sprayed on the F1 rostrum and 60,000 regular bottles of Brut were polished off in the hospitality suites. Jeroboams signed by the winning drivers have been put up for auction and bids have surpassed £30,000, with all proceeds destined for victims of the war in Ukraine. Motor racing’s soaking celebrations weren’t forged overnight.
While we’re talking about the sparkling stuff, here are three key dates that shaped F1 sparkling supernova away from Trento, Italy.
OCTOBER 12, 1936: LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK, USA America’s Vanderbilt Cup was run at New York’s Roosevelt Raceway. Winner Tazio Nuvolari was presented with a trophy taller than himself. But he received another gift too – a chilled bottle of Moet & Chandon. It was the first time that champagne had appeared on the podium. Organiser George Washington Vanderbilt III – yachtsman and scientific explorer – was great friends with Monsieur Ladoucette, Moet’s US agent. “Come to the race”, said Vanderbilt, “and bring some cases of your fizzy drink. I’m sure the drivers will need some refreshment”. Before this date, drivers had been more partial to a nip of brandy with a cigar.
JULY 2, 1950: REIMS, FRANCE It was very first Formula One World Championship season, and F1 had come to the Champagne region. The wine growing families from the region all gathered at the Reims-Gueux circuit, eager to meet the drivers. The throng of VIPs, with names like Lanson, Mumm and Pommery, were hugely hospitable on their home turf, awarding grateful drivers cases of their produce. Monsieur Chandon held a large banquet at his chateau that evening, and drivers like Fangio were honoured to accept the invitation. Thereafter, champagne (and more recently other sparkling wines) always featured in the post-race celebrations.
JUNE 11, 1967: LE MANS, FRANCE It was a particularly hot day, and when winners Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt mounted the podium, the magnums of champagne at the rear of the stage had been sat in the sun for over half an hour. The wire cages had been removed from the corks already. As the silverware was being presented, one of the corks shot in the air with a bang, and the champagne spilled forth, showering the podium party. Gurney, in an attempt to shield his boss, Henry Ford II, tried in vain to stop the flow by putting his hand over the top of the bottle – as a result, everyone got drenched with bubbly and a legend was born.
JULY 6, 1969: CLERMONTFERRAND, FRANCE Jackie Stewart was, and remains, a favourite of the champagne lords since he was the first to ‘do a Gurney’ on the F1 podium, setting a traditional celebration that would prove a mainstay 50-odd years on. “The 1969 French Grand Prix was 28 degrees,” the three-time world champion tells City A.M. “The podium bubbly had been sat there in the sun for the whole race. I didn’t even touch the cork, I just undid the wire and Whoosh! I put my thumb over the bottle – a good Scotsman doesn’t want to spill a drop – but the more pressure I applied the further it went. It was all quite by accident but, when you think about it, the perfect way to celebrate.”
Visit Trento, Italy yourself
British Airways flies to Trento from London return from £123; Rooms at the Grand Hotel Trento start from £109 per night; grandhoteltrento.com
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