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Thursday, January 26, 2012

To Spit or Not to Spit? What to Do at Wine Tastings

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 2:35 PM

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Have you ever been the only sober friend in a group of drunks? Those of us who make, sell, and write about wine can feel like that at big public wine tastings, since many of the consumers who come to these events seem to take them a bit too far. Considering that both ZAP and the Golden Glass (ticket giveaway winners posted below!) are coming up, SFoodie thought it'd be useful to give you a view of what the folks pouring the wine would do in your place.

1. Spit. That's what the pros will be doing. Those big buckets on every table are there explicitly so you can vacate the wine you just tasted and move on to the next one. No one will be surprised to see you bending over it. The more you spit, the more wines you can taste.

2. It's a tasting, not a drinking. Know your limits. Even if you do spit, you're going to absorb alcohol through the inside walls of your mouth. We try to hit our limits by tasting as many wines as we rationally can, not as much as we can fit in before passing out. Isn't the goal to find that great undiscovered wine?

3. Stand aside. We all want to get to the wines, so once you have yours, it's courteous to move aside while you're tasting so another sampler can thrust forward her glass.

4. Consider tasting "the line." Producers are proud of their range of wines, not just the most expensive one. If you want to just taste one wine from a producer, that's okay, but you may find some surprises among the others they have to offer.

5. Help the wine rep out. With limited time and tasting capacity, you may want to ask the purveyor to choose a wine or two for you, but asking for "their favorite" will usually get a response like "that's like asking me to choose my favorite child." Give them some guidance: hearty red, crisp white, some varietal they are well known for.

6. At least pretend to listen. It's a lot of work for producers, particularly international ones, to come to a tasting and offer their wines. If they want to tell you a bit about their pruning, well, would it hurt to nod you head as you sip?

The wine trade is made up of 98 percent good folk, and we're always looking for more of the same to join in.

Contest results: Congratulations to Josie, who won two tickets to Golden Glass by coming up with the most creative one-line description for a wine. Josie's answer: "Anderson Valley Late Harvest Gewürztraminer: If Mary Poppins umbrella'd her way to adults, she'd be preaching this as a deal sweetener."

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Ben Narasin


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