Champagne, Fashion, and Racing: Melbourne Cup in a Nutshell

spring racing victoria

The spring racing carnival is all about the glitz, the fashion and the alcohol. The horse race is important too, but if we’re being completely honest, most people head to the races to get dressed up and sip – or in some people’s cases indulge – on Champagne and wine.

But it begs the question… when did alcohol become such a vital aspect of spring racing season?

Last year on cup day alone, race-goers consumed a total of 46,570 bottles of Champagne. By time you add the copious amounts of wine and beer that was also consumed to this figure, the amount of alcohol drank on race day is astronomical.

Here, we look at the history of the race that stops the nation, and how it became the biggest week of the year for wine and Champagne sales, eclipsing both New Year’s Eve and Grand Final day.

The History of Cup Day

yarra valley wine tours during spring racing season

The first ever Melbourne Cup was held in 1861, with the grand prizes being a gold watch and cash purse. It wasn’t until 1865 that the first official cup was awarded as part of the main prize, which the recipient later sold because they allegedly found it to be unattractive.

Even though the Melbourne Cup is now a permanent event in our social calendars on the first Tuesday in November, the race that stops the nation was held on varying dates throughout spring, until 1875. The cup day trophy has also gone through a number of transformations, with the current design only becoming a permanent fixture in 1919. Before then, the cup took on many appearances, and some years, no cup was awarded at all.

In the early days of the Melbourne Cup, the event’s central focus was the race itself, however, as time has progressed, alcohol and fashion have become the central focus. Today, race day has topped the tables as the biggest sporting event of the year for alcohol consumption, with the AFL’s grand final not even coming close.

To give you an idea of what Cup Day in the 21st century looks like:

  1. Over the course of spring racing season, Australians will bet as much as $1.5 billion on horse racing.
  2. Up to $52 million is spent on fashion each year.
  3. Australians drink the equivalent of 25 million swimming pools worth of alcohol between breakfast and dinner on cup day.
  4. 90 per cent of Australians from across the country tune in to watch the races on Channel 7 each year.
  5. People from NSW bet, on average, 22% more money than punters from other states.
  6. Each year, the Melbourne Cup attracts approximately 26,000 international and interstate visitors, giving the Victorian economy a boost of roughly $155 million.


10 Little Known Facts About Champagne

melbourne cup and champagne

  1. Sparkling wine is only Champagne if it comes from Champagne in France.
  2. The grapes used for Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Munier.
  3. Most Champagne is made from multiple grape varieties, and if it’s labelled as non-vintage, it’s made from more than one vintage.
  4. Non-vintage Champagne is left to mature in the bottle for at least 15 months, while vintage wines take at least three years.
  5. Small growers who sell their grapes to large houses own a lot of Champagne vineyards; however, some growers do grow and make their own champagne.
  6. The classic ‘coupe’ Champagne flute was allegedly styled after Marie Antoinette’s breast, all the way back in 1774.
  7. Champagne is best served between 8 – 10 °C
  8. Popping the cork on your Champagne bottle will make it lose its bubbles, which are what brings the drink to life and delivers the finest aromas.
  9. Always rinse Champagne glasses with hot water before use, as fibres from tea towels and residue from cleaning liquids can ruin your Champagne’s quality.
  10. Champagne bottles are best when stored in the dark.


Want to learn more about Champagne, and some of Victoria’s finest wine varieties? Join us for a winery tour of the Yarra Valley. We’ll take you to some of the region’s best vineyards, including Domain Chandon – the home of Champagne!


Book online today, or contact us for more information.