Spitting out your wine—it’s an acceptable part of winery tasting room etiquette. In North America, we associate spitting with crudeness and great gobs of wet tobacco.
Europeans, however, are completely uninhibited about spitting wine—as they are about nude bathing and May-December sexual liaisons.
The French call it recracher, and they have no qualms about doing it in the vineyard, down drains, or even on the barrel room floor.
(Here are my top reviews for wines not to spit.)
But don’t think it’s a mark of European sophistication to spit on a floor that’s finished in bird’s eye maple or covered in Persian carpets. Look for the spit buckets.
Equally do not drink from the spit bucket, even if you are on a stag journey with your best friend (see the movie Sideways).
The art of spitting (or expectorating, if you prefer) can be comfortably mastered at home.
Start practising in the shower, then move to the bathroom sink—and finally, when you’re ready to work without a net, graduate to the dining room table.
The technique is simple: when you’ve finished tasting your wine, suck in your cheeks, purse your lips into a slightly open O, lean forward and expel a steady stream into the bucket. It’s considered bad form to dribble, spray or ricochet.
Most wineries are so unused to customers spitting that I almost always have to ask for a spittoon. And I must confess to feelings of delicious superiority when I visited a Niagara winery years ago, and cast scornful glances at the amateurs beside me swallowing.
But I met my Waterloo that day. I was about to graciously release a mouthful of the winery’s robust cabernet when suddenly a large American man leaned on the counter, blocking the spit bucket. He had his back to me, chatting merrily with his group, as the tannins started to erode my tooth enamel.
Sure, you’re thinking, just swallow.
But I panicked, and made the foolish mistake of trying to say, “Excuse me, please” out of the corner of my mouth.
Wine dribbled down the side of my chin, I gulped after it and inhaled the wine that remained in my mouth. I choked, my lungs burning, and scaled to the summit of my humiliation as I spray out the wine across the white counter, the white tasting sheets and the white brochures. (I narrowly miss the large man’s white shirt.)
The Americans were actually quiet for a moment. Then the young girl behind the counter offered me a paper towel, with the compassionate pity that nurses show those who’ve lost bladder control, and asks, “Would you like this one to wipe yourself up?”
Did I mention that you should practise at home first?