Basics: How to Spit Wine Like a Pro
Among the least glamorous parts of wine tasting is figuring out when, where and how to spit. If you’re new to wine, it may feel awkward or even rude to take a sip and then wordlessly expel the liquid someone spent years of their life crafting. But, to taste wine like a professional, learning how to spit is key.
Why to Spit at a Wine Tasting
The main reason to spit during wine tastings is longevity. No matter how high your tolerance is for alcohol, if you consume everything that’s poured in a tasting room, class or festival, you’ll inevitably feel the combined effects. Before long, you’re engaging strangers in conversations about Radiohead instead of analyzing the aromas and flavors in your glass.
“When you have a big day planned, the wine starts to add up,” says Bradley Ward, the hospitality manager and estate ambassador at Napa’s Eleven Eleven winery. “I recommend spitting whenever you’re visiting three or more wineries,” or sooner if a tasting room attendant offers especially generous pours. The goal is to still be fresh and coherent by the end of the day.
“I always say, find the wine you like best, and then make that your last glass and drink it,” says Marianne Frantz, president and founder of the Chicago-based American Wine School. She also suggests traveling to tastings with your own plastic or Solo cup if you’re shy about reaching for a spittoon, and emptying it into a communal vessel as needed. After all, tasting rooms provide these communal spittoons precisely so that guests can spit.
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How to Spit Like a Pro
Follow these steps, and you’ll be
- Position yourself right in front of the spitoon when you need to use it. (Move away from it when you’re done so others can reach it.)
- Take measured sips of wine, says Dan Stoch, the general manager of New Frontier Wine Co. in Napa. Try a few tablespoons at a time, rather than hearty gulps. Not only does this let you spit more gracefully, it also enables you to swish the taste around in your mouth so it hits all corners of your flavor receptors.
- Hold long hair or loose clothing away from your face. With your tongue lowered and lips pursed, expel the wine in a slow, steady stream.
- “Try angling your face directly down as opposed to spitting forward into a spittoon,” Ward says. “This will prevent you from miscalculating the distance you’re spitting and helps with cleanliness.”
- If you dribble a little, that’s okay, too. Just ask the server or tasting room attendant for a napkin. Rest assured, it won’t be the first or last one they distribute that day.
Confidence is Key
In Ward’s 10-plus years in hospitality, he’s found that tasting room guests are less likely to be shy about spitting incorrectly than worried they’re missing out by doing so. “I hear a lot of jokes about wasting wine,” he says.
While that makes sense if the goal were intoxication, spitting actually improves your ability to assess wine like a professional.
“Most of what we get from wine aromatics we get from the nose,” says Frantz. “When you put wine on your palate, it warms the wine and throws those aromas retronasally, so that you can smell them even better. We don’t have taste receptors in the backs of our throats, so, once you’ve swished the wine back to your molars, you’ve hit all the spots in your mouth where there are receptors.”
An exception is if you’re aiming to analyze alcohol content, which you feel at the top of your esophagus, or the length or character of the finish.
However you choose to taste and spit your wine, don’t overthink it. “Spit with confidence, even if you aren’t,” says Frantz. “Own it. Everybody’s had a little bit of dribble at one point in their lives. Just don’t wear white to a tasting.”
Last Updated: October 27, 2023