The act of toasting might be one of the oldest and most universal expressions of social etiquette, conviviality, and appreciation. The meaning and intention of every toast is as varied as the people raising their glasses. Celebration, commitment, intimacy, connection...the whole gamut of human emotion.
Toasting with white wine
When it comes to the etymological origin of the Spanish word for toasting – brindis – there is no clear consensus among experts. The most widely accepted theory points to a Germanic origin, the German verb bringen, ‘to bring or offer’.
The poet and playwright Lope de Vega attributed the act of toasting to the Germans as early as the 17th century, as expressed by one of his characters in El Caballero del Sacramento (The Sacramental Knight):
‘Que sólo sé de tudesco (alemán)
eso que llaman brindar’
(‘All I know in German is what they call a toast’)
Be that as it may, the act of toasting itself can be found in most ancient civilizations. The Sumerians already had the custom of closing formal negotiations and agreements with a feast during which the diners drank from a single cup, as well as sharing salt. Amelu sa tabtiya (‘the man of my salt’) referred to the friend with whom you had shared drink and salt.
We can include Ancient Greece in the history of toasting, where libations were a common practice: a religious ceremony that consisted of spilling some of the cup’s liquid contents on the altar or floor while saying a prayer. In his epic poem The Iliad, Homer refers to the act of ‘raising the cup’. The Ancient Greeks drank to each other's health and welfare in a ceremony called philotesia.
The Romans entertained a variety of different toasts: tibi propino, ‘I offer it to you’, or the less formal and more obvious formulation Bene te! Bene me!
The French are known for drinking to people’s health as evidenced by the expression Santé. The English-language expression ‘to toast’ derives from the ancient custom of soaking toasted bread in wine.
In Spain, the use of the word brindis became popularized after it was carried over from German, Flemish, French, and English. Until the 17th century, the most common expression was hacer convites or convidar a beber, ‘to offer an invitation’ or ‘to invite to drink’. The expression became a fixture of the Spanish language and elicited the response of hacer la razón, the act of accepting the toast or invitation to drink.
At Familia Torres, we convey our passion for wine culture through our respect for the land, tradition, and a commitment to innovation. From land to table, we set out to craft extraordinary wines and spirits with the desire to bring unforgettable experiences to the far corners of the world.
Wit is a hallmark of toasting and often gives the act a humorous and comical turn. One example comes by way of James Walker, one of New York's first mayors, and his toast commemorating the second anniversary of President Washington's death. To paraphrase the witty mayor, he remembered George Washington as a man who led the way in war, and in peace, and was first in the heart of his compatriots...but what Walker couldn't understand is why a man who was so fond of being first decided to marry a widow.
Today the act of toasting, as the epitome of a get-together, not only underscores the evolution of wine but also focuses on a new trend that embraces drinking in moderation, authenticity, and the expression of a place, a region. After all, the desire to appreciate a good wine displays a certain sensibility that is also reflected in the way we relate to one another. Wine doesn't make us better people, but it does have the power to bring us together at the same table.
In the end, toasting is an act of conviviality, respect, love, friendship, and wit that represents the bonds that unite us. It is a true expression of our humanity.