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Spit with the best or wear dark clothes

By Dave Buchanan

With Colorado Mountain Winefest and the justly popular Festival in the Park just hours away, it’s time to make a decision.

Spit? Or swallow?

Do you help yourself to everything poured or do you want to remember the wines?

No matter how good you think your memory is, even the best tasters can’t remember after 50 wines. And with 50 wineries each pouring four or more wines, there is no way you’ll get through that many without spitting.

How do you know when to spit? One guideline: At meals you swallow, at tastings you spit.

There’s a catch here, of course. First, you have to get over the idea there are stigma about spitting, and second, you need something to spit in.

Every winery should offer a dump bucket. The argument against doing so is the buckets have to be monitored and there aren’t handy places to dump them (well, there is the river right next door). And they don’t want to be responsible for spitters making a mess of the table, the pourers or other tasters.

Ding. Wrong answer but thank you for playing. If there’s not a dump bucket handy, ask. Any winery preaching responsible drinking should provide a dump bucket for those who don;t want to drink every pour or fi they find a wine they don;t like.

No one expects you to drink or even like every wine you're served.

Not comfortable bending over a community dump bucket? Carry your own. Spit into a small cup and then surreptitiously (or at least carefully) dump that into the big bucket.

Jancis Robinson, in her book “How to Taste,” wrote, “‘Spit with pride’ might well be the wine taster’s motto.” I’ve been on wine tours where the owner of the cellar expects you to spit, and looks askance at tasters with a red wine dribble coursing down their chin.

How do you become a better spitter? Well, “Hey, mister, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice.

Debra Meiburg, the Hong Kong-based wine writer/educator and one of only 273 people holding the prestigious Master of Wine, encourages practicing in the shower or at the kitchen sink.

“The trick is to capture the liquid toward the front of your mouth using your tongue muscle to seal it there,” writes Meiburg on her delightful blog, “Purse your lips and then expel by pushing your tongue hard against the roof of your mouth.”

Michael Steinberger, writing on, wrote, “there are three types of spitters: droolers, dribblers, and beeline spitters. Dribbling usually becomes spray before it becomes a bead.”

The goal is a steady stream, without the “cabernet spray or pinot spew,” says Meiburg, offering you can practice the technique while watering your plants.

No bending over the dump bucket and just opening wide. Eeww. It’s not only messy but unsightly as well.

Why should you spit?

Some wine-tasting numbers:

ą 25 - Drops of wine swallowed each time you think you’ve spit;

ą 250 - Drops of wine swallowed when you know you didn’t really spit;

ą 20 - Drops in a ml (about .03 ounce);

ą 1.5 - Ounces per pour at Winefest

ą 5 ounces in a glass of wine.

Also, no matter how careful you are, there always is a little alcohol absorbed through the tongue and cheeks. Eat something during the day and drink lots of water.

And if you still are unsure of your spitting technique, one more hint: Wear dark clothes.


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