As one of the world’s oldest beverages, wine has pervaded the cultures of people around the globe, giving way to a litany of customs and practices that make wine drinking across the world a tricky endeavor to navigate.
To be sure, the cultural colorations of wine-drinking makes for a rich and beautiful collection of customs unified by a love of wine. Join us on a quick trot around the globe for a look at some truly unique wine practices.
Stemming back to the early days of the Roman Empire, Italy and wine have enjoyed a long and culturally intimate relationship. From the famed Tuscan fields to the exquisite cuisine, wine appears all over the place in daily Italian life, history and culture.
Italian Please! shares a practical tip from a culture that has mastered the production and serving of wine. In Italy, the host pours for himself first, which allows any oils or cork to be collected in his glass, rather than the guests. This custom is widely shared around the globe, and has become something of a hallmark of wine etiquette.
The ancient Greek custom you must have in your knowledge bank of wine history stems all the way back to BC when the Greeks enjoyed wine unstrained and unfiltered, leaving a nice cup of dregs in their finished cups of wine. The Getty shares how, in a game called kottabos, guests would hock their dregs to try to knock over an object in the center of the room.
I can say I’ve never done anything quite this err…raucous during my college days, but then again, we could never quite afford that much wine. If you’re traveling to Greece, don’t worry about having to engage in this game. Instead, be prepared to toast “Stin ygeía sou!” (To your health!)
Georgia (yes, the country) has one of the more renowned customs. So, get yourself prepared for an endless series of toasts. BootsNAll’s travel guide notes that at a traditional Georgian dinner, you’ll be clinking glasses 20-30 times in a sitting. Spirited and spirit-filled, this custom is one reserved exclusively for wine.
Sake is unequivocally a drink on the rise throughout the world, as more and more people are exposed to the delicate nuance, rich flavor and complex processes involved in rice wine production. Japan Visitor notes that the Japanese culture has a beautiful balance of embracing alcohol and indulging with grace and moderation.
And, perhaps my favorite custom, because it really speaks to the social aspect of enjoying wine, is to never seek, make or pour yourself your own drink. Pour for others all night long, but never for yourself. Because sake is typically served in small cups for consumption, guests have a chance to pour nearly everyone in their company a drink before the night is over. Isn’t that charming?
Explore a brief illustrated guide to some interesting drinking customs that involve wine and other spirited beverages, check out HuffPost’s 25 strangest drinking customs. We guarantee you’ll never forget to make eye contact during a toast again.