The Fine Art of Spitting

The Fine Art of Spitting

Now that I’m pregnant, this seems like a good time to talk about spitting. It’s a necessity for me these days … so I’m constantly reminded how bad I am at it. Frankly, I’m a bit of a dribbler. Plus my aim isn’t all that good. And it’s not for lack of trying. For my diploma classes and study sessions, spitting was a must. (Although there were a few late harvest Rieslings, ports and single malts that I just couldn’t bear to spit. Plus if I’m being honest, I didn’t do much spitting during Rhone, Rioja or Ribera sessions, either. The quality of Bordeaux and Burgundy they poured for us was, sadly, quite spit-worthy.)

But it’s not a skill that comes easily to me. Not enough practice spitting watermelon seeds as a child, maybe? My brothers all played baseball and chewed tobacco, so there was certainly lots of spitting going on my midst, but I never studied their form that closely. I can do a decent spit take, but the prevailing ethos there is diametrically opposed to the rules of wine expectoration — the point of the spit take is to spray liberally, messily, and with comic effect.

For me, the challenge of spitting is applying just enough force.  Spit too hard and you’re dealing with a seriously unpleasant backsplash situation. Not hard enough, and there’s a little rivulet of red snaking down your chin. As with too many things in life, I’ve erred on the side of timidity — hence the dribble factor. Well no more! I’m about to a parent, and what child wants her mom to be a weak wine spitter?

Therefore, I’ve decided to use my drinking hiatus to improve my spitting proficiency. I will devote the rest of my pregnancy to mastering the art of spitting. (Plus eating right, getting lots of rest, learning how to take care of these things once they arrive, blah, blah, blah.)

I’m starting off with some research, which I’ll gladly share. There are various schools of thought on the matter.

Here’s Michael Steinberger in Slate, interviewing uber-sommelier/importer/wine guy about town Daniel Johnnes on his method:

“It is essential … to put the right amount of wine in your mouth; he recommends between one-quarter and one-half ounce. Once you have tasted the wine and are ready to expel it, you pucker your lips, tighten your cheeks, and press your tongue up against your top teeth, broadening the tongue so that it extends past the molars on each side. This pools the wine between the top of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. The key, Johnnes says, is muscle control and force: You need to generate sufficient power to push the wine out while maintaining your form throughout the process.”

That’s awfully…specific. I’m not sure if I know what one-quarter or one-half ounce feels like in my mouth, but if this effort requires using measuring spoons, so be it.

Of course, there’s Miss Glou Glou, who manages to be both forceful and delicate at once — with extra style points for not sullying her hyper-Frenchie scarf. (I’ve posted this before, but couldn’t help myself. She’s just so charming. And if you don’t speak French, you can still watch and follow along.)

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t quote Jancis Robinson, from her ever-useful How To Taste:

“When it makes sense to spit, you should be proud rather than ashamed to do it. You may associate expectoration with rather seedy old men and pavements, but wine people have perfected the art of doing it with great style. ‘Spit with pride’ might well be the wine taster’s motto. The stylish spit is forceful, an elegant trajectory with not the merest suggestion of a dribble, aimed dead center of the spittoon.”

I shall work on my stylish spitting and report back.

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