Wine Tasting: To Spit or Swallow

Spitting is a time-honored tradition among wine tasters

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By David Hammond

Spitting is a time-honored tradition among wine tasters. You take the wine in your mouth, swirl it about, then spit most of it into a cup or bucket. The result?  You taste the wine without "suffering" any side-effects, like palate fatigue and (ahem) lack of focus.

I was at Eataly, Chicago's new Italian food emporium, in early May for a tasting of wine. The event was sponsored by Planeta, a Sicilian winery that's putting out some exceptional stuff. I had a meeting afterwards, alas, so I really couldn't indulge.

I opted to spit.

I'd never gone the spit-route before. I learned four things:

1. Spitting is not easy. It takes skill to avoid drooling on your chin or shirt.

2. Spitting is gross. It's crude, and if you're spitting into a communal bucket, you could get splashed with other people's spittle. In the face. Disgusted yet?

3. Spitting is only somewhat effective – even when spitting, you're ingesting some wine.

4. Spitting is unnatural. If you have a fine wine in your mouth, you don't want it gone. You want it.

So, at Eataly, about half-way through the wine tasting, I went from spitting to sipping. I would sip about a teaspoon or less…and then swallow.

Sipping and then swallowing a small amount of wine supports most of spitting's advantages – primarily focus without palate fatigue – and none of its disadvantages.

Sipping, instead of spitting, is more pleasant and natural, and, if you sip enough, you'll still be happy enough.





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