You may have asked yourself, “What does a crisp piece of bread have to do with complimenting someone with wine?”
The two could not seem more unrelated. The first known incident of toasting was in the 6th Century B.C. by the Greeks. They would toast to each other for a very practical reason; to make sure that the wine they were about to drink had not been poisoned. Spiking wine with poison had become a common way to dispose of an enemy, whether it is in competition or to avoid a messy divorce.
So what happened was the host (or the person serving the wine) would pour a little bit of wine from his glass into to glass of the guest and the guest would in turn pour a little bit of wine from his glass into the glass of the host, both making a clinking noise with their glasses.
Through the years we no longer need to pour our wine into each others glasses but we kept the clinking noise to be symbolic of trust and comradary between the people present. The term toast came from the Romans. They would put a piece of burnt toast in to their wine glasses to temper some of the bad wine the Romans sometimes had to drink. The charcoal from the toast would reduce the acidity of off wines making them more palatable.
By the 1700’s, socialites would even toast to people that were not present at their parties-usually celebrities and especially beautiful women who later became known as the “toast of the town.”
By the 1800’s toasting was the proper thing to do. Here are some things to remember for the next time that you give or receive a toast: