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Why Do We Clink Wine Glasses When We Toast?

The Italian wine had been poured…

The gorgeous aromas of the wine fill the air as everybody swirls their glasses…

You’re ready to take that first gorgeous sip.

But there’s something you have to do first.

Everybody raises their glasses in a toast. The familiar chorus of “cheers” rings through the air and glasses start clinking together.

Only after you’ve clinked glasses with everybody in the room can you take the first sip.

We’ve all done it. Whenever we drink Italian wine at a gathering, we raise a toast to something. We toast the occasion, our families, our friends, and anything else we can think of that deserves a little moment in the sun.

We know why we toast.

But what about the clinking of glasses?

Why has it become traditional for everybody to clink glasses after a toast? 

It seems like such an unnecessary thing, at least on the surface. And in all likelihood, you do it as an individual just because it’s what everybody else does. Clinking glasses is just the done thing.

But there is a reason for it.

Scratch that…

There’s a reason that we believe is the most logical. And then there are a few possible reasons that are steeped in legend and conjecture.

We’re going to share them all in this article as we examine why we clink glasses when we toast.

The Most Logical Reason

Let’s start with the reason that makes the most sense to us.

Drinking Italian wine is a wonderful sensory experience. We engage almost every sense that we have when we enjoy wine. We examine the wine in the glass, using our vision to watch the colours swirl and dance. We then bring the wine to our noses, allowing the sumptuous bouquet to wash over our nostrils. That moment of smelling the wine before drinking gives us hints about what is to come.

Of course, we engage our sense of touch throughout the experience. From opening the bottle to raising a glass, we’re constantly touching the wine that we’re about to drink.

And as for taste…

We don’t really need to explain why that sense is so relevant to Italian wine, do we?

Those are four of the five human senses that are engaged when we drink wine.

But there’s a fifth – sound.

And it is the desire to create a sound so that we enjoy a full sensory experience that gives us the most logical reason why we clink our glasses together. That little tinkle as glass connects with glass is a way to bring sound into the equation, thus fulfilling the only sense that we don’t fulfill when simply drinking wine.

It makes a lot of sense when we think about it like that.

The clinking of glasses is the final step both we taste the wine. It’s crucial in completing the experience before we finally taste the wine. And if you don’t believe us, think back to the last time you toasted with friends and compare it to the last time you drank a glass of wine alone.

We’re sure you enjoyed both experiences.

But wasn’t the one that involved the toast just that little bit more fulfilling.

Clinking glasses gives us a full sensory experience when we’re drinking wine. But if legend is to be believed, this isn’t the only reason why we clink our glasses.

The Other (Historical) Reasons

To find the other reasons for clinking the glasses, we have to cast our gazes back through time. 

And when we do that, we find two other reasons for the clinking of the glasses that, while not particularly relevant today, may have made sense many hundreds of years ago.

Fending Against Evil Spirits

The first of these reasons relies heavily on superstition.

Back in the days when science wasn’t at the stage where it could provide explanations for most of what we feel and see in life, many people believed in occult phenomena. In particular, many ancient people truly believed that demons and evil spirits could invade their lives and wreak havoc. 

Some say the clinking of the glasses was a way to ward off these evil spirits.

The sound of the glasses bumping off each other created a noise that warned demons away from the spots where people gathered. We see variations of this idea in other ancient cultures too. For example, ancient Germans used to bang their mugs of alcohol together while shouting for the very same reason.

What’s more, it seems that the clinking of the glasses was also done to allow just a little of the wine to spill onto the floor. In this case, the belief was that the wine on the floor would distract evil spirits, thus ensuring they left the people alone.

The Poisoned Chalice

With our second reason, we move away from supernatural superstitions and towards very real paranoia.

Still, in ancient times it was not uncommon for people to poison their enemies by spiking their wine with a foreign substance. Many are the stories of ancient political machinations that resulted in assassination by poison. And in the times before science made it possible to easily detect poison, this method of killing somebody was practically untraceable, leaving the assassin free to escape the situation.

This desire not to be poisoned gives rise to our second theory for why we clink glasses.

Even ancient people knew that clinking glasses would not magically reveal the presence of poison.

However, the theory went that filling both glasses to the brim and then clinking would lead to wine for each glass spilling over into the other glass. As a result, if there was poison in one glass, it would find its way into the other glass as well.

Think of it as a wine-based form of mutually assured destruction.

If somebody’s going to go down, they’re taking the person who likely poisoned them with them.

This mixing of drinks went from a practical method of two people showing each other that they mean no harm into a traditional form of greeting and celebrating.

Of the three theories, we find this final one the most intriguing.

But which of the three do you enjoy most? Perhaps all three have a grain of truth to them?

Who knows?

The one thing we do know is that we have plenty of Italian wines available for you to toast with on our website. Take a moment to browse our catalogue and we’re sure you’ll find something you like.

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