Raise a Glass: Toasting 101

Everyone I know drank to someone’s health (or prosperity, or a new job, or world peace) in the last two weeks – but did we do it correctly?

Toast medium

[Photo, “Toast to 2012,” courtesy of Hakee Chang via Flickr]

We’ve been practicing long enough that we should be able to get it right by now. People toasted each other as early as the 1st century BCE, when Roman citizens were required to drink to the health of Emperor Augustus at every meal. In A Gentleman’s Guide to Toastingauthor David Fulmer writes that people continued toasting into the Middle Ages, but they weren’t exactly singing each others’ praises: back then, poison was a common means of getting rid of enemies, so people poured a bit of wine into their rivals’ glasses to prove the wine hadn’t been poisoned. Drinkers who trusted each other skipped the tasting part and just clinked glasses; some historians claim the clinking noise chased away evil spirits.

The word “toast” may have evolved from Elizabethan times, when ale houses placed a piece of spiced toast in glasses to flavor drinks. The toast also supposedly soaked up the dregs. By the early 1700s, a toast came to mean “a sentiment expressed just before drinking to someone.”

We all get pressed into toasting duty eventually. When your turn comes, drinking etiquette experts (yes, some people actually specialize in booze manners) offer these pointers:

  • Before you speak, get the group’s attention – don’t begin your toast while people are talking – and make sure everyone has a glass. Include teetotalers; they can toast with water or soda.
  • Raise your glass to eye level, make eye contact and begin your toast. Keep it to two or three sentences. Don’t wax on.
  • Your toast should be appropriate to the occasion. Don’t mention dead people at a festive celebration or be too casual at a formal or serious event.
  • Don’t begin your toast with a story about yourself. Sorry, but nobody cares.
  • Don’t use a script – surely you can remember three sentences.
  • Make it original. Resist the temptation to include clichés; they’re cop-outs.
  • And even if you’re the biggest potty-mouth in the room, don’t curse during a toast. Never, never, never.

Wine Lingo:  Punt = the indentation at the bottom of a bottle of sparkling wine. The punt has a practical purpose: during production, six “atmospheres” of pressure, or up to 90 pounds per square inch, build up inside the bottle. That’s more than twice the air pressure in a car tire, and the reason why you enjoy up to 100 million bubbles in each bottle. The punt helps to distribute that pressure. Other wine bottles sometimes feature punts as well.

Yarden Blanc de Blancs

Vino ‘View: I toasted a lot this season, and the best glass I raised was 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blancs (12 percent alcohol, $30.99). This Israeli sparkler from Galilee is produced by the traditional method and aged at least four years. The bubbles were fine and aggressive, just the way I like them. Yarden is known for its sparkling wines and this one delivers medium body with a surprising mix of crisp citrus and tropical tastes on top of homemade bread. Orange and honeydew melon were the prominent and lingering flavors, with a touch of grapefruit. This vintage will keep another two years; Yarden bubbly generally can age for a decade.

[The Yarden Blanc de Blancs was sent to BigSexyReds for review.]

Cheers!

Mary

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Classy Gifts for Wine Lovers

Once again, I’ve put off my holiday shopping until the last minute. It’s cold, it’s snowing and I don’t want to leave the house.

Fortunately, Santa has a laptop now, so we can all pour ourselves a glass of our favorite Big Sexy Red (or white, or hooch) and get our shopping done online. Here’s a list that any wine lover (which is pretty much everyone I know) can cozy up with:

 

 

The Aervana Aerator – $99.95 (left photo, above) might be my favorite wine toy. It aerates your wine instantly; gently press the button and your wine is on tap. Sediment stays at the bottom of the bottle, not in your glass, and you’ll never spill a drop. It takes six AAA batteries to operate, but thank you Santa, they’re included with the aerator. Use this gadget in front of your friends and it’s guaranteed to send your cool factor through the roof. Also available at Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond.

We’ve all known the heartbreak of dropping a bottle of wine on the sidewalk and watching our precious liquid spill onto the sidewalk. You can prevent those sad accidents with the Bottle Shock Wine Case –  $159, 2-bottle case; 179, 3-bottle case (center), a crush-resistant, gasket-sealed tote. It’s sturdy enough to be checked baggage, but I find it most handy when I’m taking several bottles to a friend’s house and don’t want to risk breaking them. The dense foam will protect your wine – trust me, those bottles aren’t moving – and the strap even has a small pouch for stashing a corkscrew.

I’ve tried a lot of drying cloths, but none have dried my glasses as fast and completely as the Wu-beez – $7.95 or $9.95/pack of two (photo on right). They leave behind no streaks or lint, and dry my best glasses with one swipe. If you’re giving wineglasses, stuff some cloths into the glasses to complete your gift.

 

For the wine lover who travels, the VinGarde Valise – $299.99 (photo on left) is a splurge but worth every penny. The super-dense foam inserts fit up to a dozen wine bottles safely – and by safely, I mean you can feel confident checking the bag; your wine will arrive at its destination in perfect condition, and under the 50-pound weight limit. I’ve carried wine home from Sonoma and Italy in this lightweight, indestructible suitcase. Extra foam sheets and straps constructed with auto seatbelt material secure the wine, and you can order extra inserts shaped for carrying wineglasses or magnums. VinGarde Valise is also available on Amazon.

Once you’ve drank wine from fine crystal, you’ll never go back to clunky glasses – but honestly, PubWare – $49.99/set of 4 (center) is different. It has the weight of glass and the rim is thin on your lips, just like a quality wineglass, but PubWare is unbreakable. It’s not plastic, exactly, but these stemless, 12-ounce glasses are PBA-free. PubWare also is available in flutes and other shapes. The best part: until December 31, the glasses are on sale for 25 percent off ($37.49/set of 4) with free shipping, so if you expect gift-giving occasions next year, it’s a good idea to pounce on these now.

Lastly, I think the RePour – $8.99, 4-pack; $16.99, 10-pack (right) makes a great stocking stuffer. These stoppers save leftover wine by eliminating all the oxygen in the bottle, thereby preventing the wine from degrading. The manufacturers claim the wine will stay fresh for months; I can’t test that part because I can’t imagine not finishing a bottle for that long. But if you have an expensive bottle and want to save some for a special occasion coming up in a few weeks, these stoppers should preserve it for you.

Happy shopping!

Mary