Spit it Out

By Jennifer Cossey

“A group of girlfriends and I are heading to wine country for Thanksgiving Weekend open houses. Last time we visited, there were people who were spitting into cups. Can you tell me what that is all about? I felt like I was missing something.” - Michelle (Portland)

Most polite people would think it unforgivable to spit in the company of others, but most professional wine folks do it every day, all day. 

Spitting is useful for one very obvious reason: to keep you from getting intoxicated. Wine professionals taste during the day and still have a full day of work ahead of them, so being drunk at 8 a.m. just doesn’t fly. As for the amateur, like yourself, spitting is also essential, especially over a holiday weekend, when most wineries have upwards of 10 wines available to sample.

Think of sips of wine like passed appetizers at a party, even though one small bite seems like simply one small bite, several small bites sometimes equals more then you would eat at dinner. Also, it is important to know that spitting a wine is not a sign that you don’t like it. You will not offend winemakers or tasting room associates by doing it. Believe me, they would rather you do that than the alternative.

How to spit. Purse your lips together as if you were a cartoon character going in for a kiss, then slightly curl up the sides of your tongue and force the wine out of your mouth with a little air — like a whistle, just without the sound. 

Most tasting rooms provide spit cups. Spit carefully and dump what occupies the cup out frequently or you will experience the dreaded splash back. It sounds as bad as it is.

Still not convinced spitting is the way to go? Here are some alternatives: 1. Don’t finish the wine in your glass. There will always be a receptacle on a tasting room table for you to dump the wine. 2. Share your tasting with a friend. Not only will it keep you from going overboard, it will help you save a little money, so you can buy a bottle to take home.

Wishing your Thanksgiving Weekend is spitastic! Cheers!

E-mail me at to submit your questions. Until next month!


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