Spitting and Grinning

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Big fancy wine tasting events in these parts can be intimidating. Even though I am a local, these people who come from all over the world to swirl and taste our produce seem like silent experts who can manage to look smart while they make small inhaling sounds while smacking their lips and shifting a squirrel cheek full of wine from one cheek to another.These are the people who can look in a room full of hundreds of bottles of wine in brown paper bags and say to themselves, “I feel certain that I can discern one wine from another in this huge lot. Let me take a lot of notes, do some spitting.” Actually, these are the wine people who would say they don’t spit, they expectorate.As if to intimidate me further, at the very fancy Premiere Napa Valley, I overheard one well-dressed woman say to her companion, “I gave up wine for Lent, does it count as a drink if I spit?” Her well-dressed friend gave her his blessings and responded that of course if spat, it wouldn’t count.That complex spitting exercise and its nuance hadn’t entered my mind. Now I was worried about my spitting. Is there a proper technique and etiquette? Do I need a coach?

The swirling I can do with the best of them. Some would say I can do the drinking with the pros, too. But the spitting out of the wine is where my skills betray me.I wonder, how does one spit while keeping the proper decorum at a fancy event? The first temptation is to spit back into the wine glass since it is always most convenient. No. Just the thought of that makes me want to never spit.Most real spitters I see carry around a paper cup which would come in handy if you chew tobacco also. There is something incongruous about drinking a $100 cabernet out of a $60 wine glass and spitting what you don’t want into a Dixie cup. Is there a market for expensive silver spitting cups?Some experts that I’ve noticed stick their head in the sink to spit. This reminds me of college more than it does of a fancy wine event so that option is not very appealing.And there is always that post-spit little drool. So it is always very important to have that napkin handy too. How can such an elegant and refined activity as wine tasting have such an accepted practice that involves spitting and drooling?What about if the event is outside? Is it OK to spit in the bushes? Will I kill the roses?White wine seems easier to spit for some unscientific reason. Maybe it just seems easier than red wine because if your spit goes sideways it won’t stain the clothes of anyone nearby. On many spitters I notice their clothes are speckled with wine spit droppings. The hard-core see this as a red badge of restraint.Wine drinkers could learn a lot from baseball players. Those guys can let loose a stream between their two front teeth that could land in a paper cup 10 feet away. Probably not acceptable at a fancy wine event but a few baseball players who liked wine could be stars at blind tastings.One easy solution to all these spitting dilemmas is to do the opposite — savor the wine as it goes down your throat and enjoy that part of the wine, too. When tasting a few hundred wines it may be difficult to get through the session standing up if there is no spitting, but I will leave that problem to the pros.As for me, OK, just one glass and I won’t spit.


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