The Masters of Wine-Spitting (by

Posted: December 18, 2012 by wynmaker in Tasting, Wine, World wine news
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

wine-spitting-620x349It’s a necessary evil for anyone wanting to taste many wines, but how on earth should one go about it?

“I don’t think I can taste wine. I don’t know how to spit.”

Christian Payne was once a war photographer. He’s not afraid of meeting Syrian rebels at a clandestine location in eastern Turkey. But at a tasting we were both attending, the idea of spitting improperly in front of wine critics intimidated him.

I tried to reassure him. “Everybody knows how to spit. All that matters is getting the wine out of your mouth into a cup.”

Payne was unconvinced. “I’ve seen some very complicated spitting here,” he said.

I remained nonchalant, but I should have genuflected, because I was in the presence of spitting royalty. The spitter’s spitter. (I’ll tell you who soon.)

Fortunately, unlike Payne, I’m American. As with so many other Continental manners, perfect spitting isn’t something we aspire to or even understand. Only while working on this story have I come to realize that my British colleagues have likely been raising a discreet eyebrow at my own spitting for years.

Spitting prowess matters in England. Jancis Robinson MW told me, “I followed the advice of Pamela Vandyke Price, then wine correspondent of the London Times, to practice in the bath.”

But it’s not as important in the U.S. “I suck at it,” says Shayn Bjornholm, who is not only a Master Sommelier in Seattle; he’s examination director for the Court of Master Sommeliers. “If you’ve ever seen me, it’s like somebody filled a whoopee cushion with water and sat on it.”

Bjornholm says he still remembers his initial introduction to professional spitters, at the first tasting he did as a wine buyer.

“This guy looked like a cross between one of Jim Henson’s Muppets and Jimi Hendrix on acid,” Bjornholm recalls. “He was walking around with a chain bucket around his neck. He would take a sip of wine and spit into it. I knew people spit. I knew Jancis Robinson could shoot a bird out of a tree from 50 feet away. I thought that was cool. But up close, it was disgusting.”
Read on …


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