To Spit or to Swallow?   4 comments

Austin: Who are you today, Baby?
Robin Swallows: My name is Robin Swallows.
Austin: Swallows.  That’s an interesting name.
Robin Swallows: Maiden name is Spitz.
Austin: Well, which is it, Baby, Spitz or Swallows? 

The situation: you go to a wine tasting where many different wines are being poured.  The idea is to sell you some of those wines.  You approach the first table with wine glass in hand.  You receive a small pour.  You sniff.  You swirl. You sip.  And then?  Which is it, Baby?

That indeed is the question.  Having spent virtually no time pondering it, I can say the choice is fraught with risks.   But why spit to begin with?  Seems like a waste of perfectly good wine, no?  Typically, professional tasters do this when assessing a number of wines to determine relative quality and to make buy/no-buy decisions.  No good can come of making a decision to a buy a bottle, case (or a pallet) of something toward the end of an afternoon of swallowing wines.  Been there, done that. 

But if you do swallow before ordering, Caveat Emptor.


Proper Technique– notice the slight lean forward and the wine clearing all clothing. And you get extra credit for standing on the barrel.

Technique.  The Goal–  to taste your wine without wearing your wine.  First off– don’t take too much wine into your mouth.  A small mouthful is usually sufficient.  Swirl the wine around your mouth to hit every part of the tongue.  Salt, sour, sweet, bitter zones.  Lean forward slightly and aim for the spit bucket.  Push the wine out but not too forcefully expelling it in a steady stream.  Try not to miss– nothing pisses off tasting room staff than some yahoo spitting on their bar.  If you must, bring your face closer to the spit bucket, but watch out for the nasty splash back (for this reason alone, you may want to snag your own personal paper cup for this purpose).  

Spit Buckets.  There are unwritten rules when using the spit bucket.  First, if the tasting event you are attending is a social gathering, then ask if it is ok to spit right into the bucket.  Seems that some folks who are there just to drink, don’t like the sight of spitting wine any more than say the spitting that accompanies chewing tobacco.  More often than not they will hand you a plastic cup for you to do your business.   But if you’re in a winery, the spit bucket is your friend.

Drains.  First time I saw this was with a wine maker friend who spurt out into the drains at the winery.  Cooool!  I don’t have many opportunities to do this at home, so had to go for it.  Just watch out for splashes on your trousers, or worse, Ms. R’s white sandals!

Socially Unacceptable?  Not for me.  Socially unacceptable is getting so toasted you can’t tell the difference between a wine glass and a spit bucket.  I save those nights for when I’m home or with close friends!  More on the value of good friends shortly.

The Wrong Technique. Spit? Swallow? Spit? Swallow? What to do? NOT THIS.

Swallow.Reasons to swallow?  We need reasons?

Like Waka Flocka Flame raps “It’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party!”  Just remember, you can have too much of a good thing.  Otherwise, you could end up like Judge Rivington who reportedly fell off of the ferry after the Spring Tasting sponsored by Niles and Frasier Crane’s Wine Club.

This is an obvious reason to swallow– it tastes good.  Ultimately, wine is a food item, is it not?  And given that, it is meant to be and should be enjoyed and savored.  Putting aside all the talk of the mystical-magical-transcendent properties of wine, it is about bringing a little more enjoyment to life, a meal, a moment.

Look Ma, No hands!

Are there wines that are just too good to spit?  Naturally and when this happens, I swallow with the best of them.  But even too much good wine will take you to the Point of No Return.  I read recently about a very well-known English wine writer who several years back had so much good old French Bordeaux at a “tasting” that she uncharacteristically misplaced her tasting notebook.  “Woopsy!”

Can you be too thirsty to spit.  This is the Danger Zone.  Think of it– hot summer day, crisp white sipper sitting on ice.  Your last meal was earlier that morning  Could a couple of quickly quaffed glasses be so bad?  (“Hey, is that Waka Flocka on the iPod?”)  Oh Yeah– just don’t forget to just hit the water and the buffet table before the party goes out-of-bounds.

Is it possible to be too grossed-out to spit.  Yes.  But, that’s not me.  But you know what’s really gross?

Judge Rrrrrrrrrrivinton are you in there?

Well at least she’s got nice– um– shoes and a little help from a good friend.  But I don’t envy her choice of spit bucket.  I suppose for some people, the matter of spitting is not one of whether to do so, but rather when: Spit NOW or Spit LATER.

Like what you see?  Hit the Subscribe/Follow button and don’t miss another Sybarite Sauvage post.

Posted July 24, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

4 responses to “To Spit or to Swallow?

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. 7000 words couldn’t replace these pictures, but the few you printed go a long way in that direction.
    Have a ‘____’weekend,

    • DT, you are truly digging deep into the SS archives!

      You would be surprised how many hits this particular page gets– but it’s not usually people who are into wine appreciation!

      It’s all in the title!

      Did you check out the Frasier clip? Classic Stuff!

  2. SS, your writing is so witty that you could write “The Phone book”!
    The Frasier video came back as no-longer-available.

    • So sad about the Frasier– I have updated the post to remove the gutted link. In the meantine get to the video store or library and get your hands on Frasier Season Seven and specifically the episode entitled the Whine Club. Great stuff worth seeking out.

      That Phone Book crack can cut two ways; not sure how to take that… 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: