Oct 17 2008

How to spit wine (Your mom says it’s OK)

Published by at 1:38 AM under Savvy Sip Tips

Unless you’ve won some contests involving watermelon seeds, you play pro baseball or you indulge in smokeless tobacco, spitting likely is not something you’re very good at. As a kid, I did my darndest to spit and to whistle with no success at either, much to the dismay of my male cousins.

We’ve all been well-trained—when you were 3, spitting might have meant some afternoons logged in the time-out corner. But spitting is necessary—even good form—when tasting wine.

Why? Because it’s poor form to get tanked at a tasting, whether it be in a wine shop, at a restaurant, during a festival or as part of a professional event. More people there will be sober than not. You do not want to be the loud one who thinks it’s a party, too tipsy to notice everyone else rolling their eyes. At a tasting, you choose the wine that you want to get tanked on later, when you don’t have to navigate crowds or drive.

But spitting can be almost as embarrassing. While others around me are cleanly expelling their taste, I’m trying to direct my drizzle into the bucket and away from my shirt. During a recent trip to Brazil with fellow wine journalists in which we tasted upward of 40 wines a day, I watched carefully, hoping to get it at last out of sheer desperation.

So for those like me who have better luck shooting milk out of their noses than wine out of their mouths, my assessment:

You don’t have to spit across the room.
Some people can. Some people do. But really, you can just position yourself near the bucket, even pick it up if you want (and it’s not too full). That way you don’t have to gauge force and distance or slink away if you overshoot/come up short.

You shouldn’t spit too close.
While you don’t have to spit across the room, don’t put your face in the bucket, either. Especially if it’s full. What’s inside might splash back up onto your face and clothes, particularly revolting if the bucket is shared.

You should not drizzle.
Tempting as it is just to open your mouth and let gravity work, dribbling the wine from your mouth tends to result in dribbles down your chin and shirt. A little bit of force helps the wine project away from your face.

You should not spit across someone.
Even if you’ve got the spitting thing down, it’s just bad manners to spit past someone into a bucket. Again, move closer to it or ask someone to pass it down (before you have your mouth full of wine).

You should practice.
Your kitchen sink is an excellent target, and water is a forgiving liquid. Mouthwash offers the chance to improve your spitting form and your oral hygiene at the same time. Practice may not make perfect, but it can decrease your need for Tide to Go.

Still think you can get around spitting by swallowing an ever so slight taste instead? As I learned the hard way, you miss much of a wine—the acid that will make the sides of your mouth water, the tannins on top of your tongue—without a mouthful.

So give it a try at home and test your new skills in a friendly environment like Just Grapes, which offers tastings 2-4 p.m. every Saturday and 5:30-7:30 the first Wednesday of each month. If you see me there, we can share a bucket and pinky swear not to laugh at each other. Just don’t ask me to whistle Yankee Doodle or call your dog.

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