Wine: Here’s looking at you
by Kay Pfaltz
Today there is really no agreed upon toast except perhaps eye contact when toasting. Clink glasses…don’t clink…but always look each person in the eye as you do.
Toasting probably dates to ancient Greece, its provenance fueled by practicality—to ensure one’s wine wasn’t poisoned. Spiking wine with poison had become an all too common means of dealing with personal problems: disposing of an enemy, a political opponent, a mother-in-law. To assure his guests that the wine wasn’t poisoned, a host would pour wine from a common pitcher and drink it before the assembled in a symbol of friendship. When guests saw he didn’t keel over, he’d then raise his glass to all to do likewise.
The Romans who admired the Greeks, and tended to handle their social problems by similar means, also adopted the tradition of toasting. The term itself comes from the Roman practice of dropping a piece of burnt bread into wine. This tempered some of the less appealing wines the Romans drank since charcoal reduces acidity in bad wine making it more palatable.
In ancient Rome, bits of toast were floated in goblets of wine. One story tells of a rich man who threw quite the lavish party and filled the public baths with wine. Cheers. Beautiful young women were invited to swim in it. When asked his opinion of the wine, a guest responded: “I like it very much, but I prefer the toast.” And in the 18th century partiers got so caught up toasting, they toasted even to those not present. A woman who became the object of many such toasts came to be known as the “toast of the town.”
You don’t have to wait till December 31st to drink champagne and make a toast. Raise a glass to life and all it offers. Toast your health and the health of your friends. Toast if you love deeply and toast if you’re loved. Life goes by quickly. Give gratitude that you didn’t become toast. Happy New Year to all and may you know much peace and joy.
The following grower champagnes are my top picks for bubbly:
Voirin-Jumel, NV Brut – From the Premier Cru vineyards of Cramant, Voirin-Jumel has beautiful floral and mineral characteristics. Notes of poached pear, meringue, dried fruits and apple. Pair with lemon-flavored scallops, sole or Carpaccio of salmon. $39
Diebolt Vallois – A Blanc de Blancs, which means all white grapes, and in Champagne this means all Chardonnay. This was my top pick last year and I continue to love Jacques Diebolt’s wines. A rich, medium-bodied champagne with grapes from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vines. Round, elegant, creamy with notes of honeysuckle and chamomile. $52
Roland Champion, NV Brut – Another Blanc de Blancs, from a small, family-owned producer in the village of Chouilly with only Grand Cru vineyards. Fourth-generation daughter, Carole, has even made the trek to Nellysford. This is what one reviewer writes: “ThisChampagne offers ethereal grace and poise and harmony; if I were fighting a duel tonight, I would ask for this Champagne as my last beverage.” Notes of biscuit and hazelnut. $49
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