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Spitting Wine

Have you ever wished you could spit wine like the “winery guys” do? Do you find yourself attempting to spit wine into a bucket or drain and the wine either ends up on the front of your shirt and pants, or you cough and sputter as a small amount finds its way down your throat and windpipe? Do you decry projectile spitting as uncouth because you can’t succeed in doing it?

It makes considerable sense to spit when you taste at wineries. After tasting several wines, a significant amount of alcohol takes hold and numbs your tasting capabilities. The result is that all wines taste the same and you begin to ask silly questions of the winemaker. If you can spit well, it is a badge of experience and winemanship that brings you into the wine fraternity and may get you access to tasting reserve wines that ordinary non-spitters would never experience.

I have never seen a course at wine conferences and little advice about projectile spitting is forthcoming in the wine press or on the internet. A Master Sommelier friend, Rene Chazottes, told me years ago that the best way to learn to spit is to practice with water, preferably when sober, before wasting any good wine. Take a somewhat larger than normal gulp in your mouth from a glass of water, purse your lips and draw in some air through the water two or three times, swish the wine around in your mouth, and then expel it by narrowing the opening between your lips to an oval, avoiding any dribble on your chin at the end. Do this when your spouse and kids are out of the house to avoid any embarrassing ridicule.

Emile Peynaud (The Taste of Wine, 1987) describes the technique as follows. “To spit out the wine, gather it in the front of the mouth, tighten and slightly purse the lips, and increase the pressure inside the mouth until the wine is completely forced out, using the tongue as a piston. Just how adroitly you can do this will depend on how skillfully your lips can shape the wine’s trajectory. Understandably, the art of spitting is treated with a certain amount of circumspection, yet it is a hallmark of the professional taster who can spit in an almost clinical fashion from the edge of his lips, and control the force of the jet according to the distance of the spittoon, all without dribbling.”

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