Oenologie - Pourquoi porter un toast ? - Les Grappes

Why are we toasting?

Everybody is seated in their place, around the table, glass in hand, when someone stands up and announces that they wish to "Make a toast". He raises his glass to someone's health, inviting his guests to do the same. But where does this tradition come from? Why raising a glass to someone is synonymous with celebration and joy? Les Grappes invites you to raise your glasses!

Toasting: an ancient tradition

Raising a glass to someone, or drinking to someone's health is a tradition that dates back to antiquity. Indeed it was common to honour the Gods through wine, to drink in celebration of the Gods. Also, it is customary to drink to the health of mortals, placed then under the protection of these same Gods. One thinks then of the ovations made to the hosts, warriors and heroes at the opening of the banquets.
It is therefore a gesture motivated by gratitude, appreciation and conviviality: the shared moment becomes a moment that one devotes to the same person, or even several.

A short history of gesture and expression

Although the word "toast" refers to English, the expression finds its origin in France . Indeed, the custom dates back to the 17th-18th centuries: in Old French, the word "toste" referred to a slice of toast dipped in wine that was drunk at the time of celebrating someone.

It was mainly about drinking to a woman's health. Indeed, the expression was "toster une dame" when one drank to one's health. When a man was in love with a woman, he would invite his companions to drink a glass of wine in which a toste was dipped. Each drank in turn, leaving the last sip to the lover! This one could then taste the toste soaked with wine, while thinking of his beautiful.
The expression was extended and modified from 1700 onwards and is now reserved only for the feminine gentleman. Since then, it has been called "toasting".

Also, the English have adopted the term "toste" to designate the slice of toast.
The expression and the gesture testify to the will to celebrate someone, to give them a special moment during festive gatherings.

What to say when you make a toast?

There is the art and manner of toasting, especially since it is a moment of speaking in front of an assembly.
According to convention, when toasting, you should thank those present, explain to whom you are toasting and why you are toasting. Finally, you should invite others to stand up and raise their glasses, while the person being celebrated, if present in the room, should remain seated. Finally, toast by saying the person's name and enjoy the contents of your glass.

Making a toast around the world

However, the tradition is not only French, we propose you to discover how a toast is made in other countries. In Scandinavia, you have to wait for the first "skäl" (toast) to be drunk: this is done by the host. When the latter has made his toast, everyone can indulge in the tradition by raising his glass halfway up.
In China, it is customary to invite everyone to a toast. So when everyone, in the order of the hierarchy, has raised a glass to the health of the other, we drink the glass straight down!

Marie Lecrosnier-Wittkowsky (for Les Grappes)

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