How-to: Spit with Style
Why Spit?People spit wine to stay sober. If you're tasting 20 wines, by the last pour you will have consumed approximately 20 ounces of wines. This is the equivalent of four full glasses, and would be enough alcohol to start feeling rather giddy. Needless to say, if you're trying to objectively rate or taste the wines, by the time you hit the last pour your senses will become a little impaired. For this reason, people often choose to spit at certain events.
Should I Spit?The question is about how many wines you will be tasting. If a friend is going to open 10 bottles and pour one ounce samples, the choice is yours to spit or swallow. If it's a friendly atmosphere, you're not driving, and you don't need to rate the wines too seriously - I would probably chose to swallow the wine. However, if you're going to sample more than 10-15 wines, I would begin to spit all or some of the samples, depending on whether the particular wine is agreeable with my palate. In a similar fashion, if you're visiting wineries they will each have about five wines available for tasting. If you're going to visit more than three wineries, I would recommend spitting at least some of the samples.
Do not spit at dinner parties. While I've heard that occasionally this is OK, generally speaking, an eating environment is not a place to judge wines scientifically, and the atmosphere is not conducive to wine spitting. Similarly, if the event you're attending is more about social mingling and less about wine tasting, often times there will be no spit bucket (aka dump bucket) and spitting would be inappropriate.
Should I Dump?Dumping is the practice of pouring wine out of your glass into the dump bucket. This common practice occurs when you sample a wine and either (1) don't like the wine or (2) feel that you already obtained a good understanding of the wine on previous tastes. In either case, dumping the remaining wine out is another good way to maintain sobriety during a tasting expedition.
Where to SpitFirst find the dump bucket. Dump buckets are large opaque plastic, metal, or ceramic buckets that often take one of the shapes below:
At tasting events, you will often see one per table. At wineries, they almost always exist on the wine bar itself.
At some tasting events, you may be offered a personal spit cup. These small plastic or paper cups may be utilized for discreet spitting where you simply bring the cup to your mouth and expel wine. Personal cups are often times the preferred method of spitting because they offer some privacy and don't require you to show your spitting skills to the world. Unfortunately, personal cups are not exceedingly common, especially at wineries.
How to SpitThere are a few styles of spitting. Slate.com's interview with Daniel Johnnes, wine director at Montrachet, explains the process of professional spitting best:
"It is essential, [Johnnes] said, to put the right amount of wine in your mouth; he recommends between one-quarter and one-half ounce. Once you have tasted the wine and are ready to expel it, you pucker your lips, tighten your cheeks, and press your tongue up against your top teeth, broadening the tongue so that it extends past the molars on each side. This pools the wine between the top of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. The key, Johnnes says, is muscle control and force: You need to generate sufficient power to push the wine out while maintaining your form throughout the process"The above method calls for a forced expulsion of wine from your mouth while keeping your head mostly upright. I.e., using your tongue, your cheeks, and some gravity to expel wine in a stream. This method, while professional, is also hard to achieve. Practice does make perfect, but don't be daunted if you can't master it. It is also perfectly acceptable to simply place your head about one foot above the spit bucket, face your head downwards, pucker your lips to allow a 1/4 inch opening, and let gravity create a stream of liquid from your mouth to the bucket. While this method doesn't create the solid, steady stream that the pro version does, it works, is simple, and usually doesn't create much of a mess.
Final TipsBefore you go to an event where you will be spitting wine, it is best to practice the art with a wine glass, some water, and a large sink. The shower is another great place to practice. However, regardless of your spitting skills, everyone (even the pros) will occasionally dribble a little on their chin or shirt. It's best to bring a few tissues with you should that happen.
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