I have never been much more than an average spitter. But as Tom cats go, there are many worse, spraying or dribbling there way through tastings without a care in the world for their red-stained chins, or worse the pristine shirts of others.
I have stood in awe of greats such as Erin Chave, Henri Boillot and Jancis Robinson have done the deed from three feet, while I shyly and ashamedly let fly in an almost penitent bow to the crachoir. Not since reading Midnight’s Children has spitting been so much of my daily routine, and like Rushdie’s beetel-stained characters, I obsessively aim for my own copper goal. And I am not alone.
But practice does make perfect and I am following Henri’s advice, and my daily shower offers five minutes of concentrated endeavour as I aim to hone in on the plug hole and hit a spittoon with a satisfying tsing!
I have never been embarrassed by the idea of spitting as many apparently are, and when tasting seriously it is a necessary evil as not spitting would leave you in a state of Noah, naked and humiliated by wine.
With regard to technique, firstly I am learning that less really is more. Instead of a Robert Parker sized generous gob of wine, a discreet and tiny sip is better, not only to taste, but also to expel. You can still do all the noises and sucking through of air, but you will find it a little less showy and, dare I say it, obnoxious than a heady mouthful. Like most things, it is economy of scale and I now think helps you concentrate better on the intrinsic merits of a wine in the mouth.
You may also diminish the inevitable effect of alcoholic osmosis. The spectre of drink-driving, and Chalon sur Saone’s Gendarmerie Nationale’s cellar, unofficially one of France’s greatest collections of fine red and white Burgundy, generously provided gratis by vignerons, offers proof that they might more wisely have preferred to crache….
With regard to actually expelling the wine, a “footballer’s blow”, results in an ungainly cloud of spume, so the mouth needs to be puckered and the wine expelled with force, and I think its’s more of muscles than air. I am also experimenting with a “through the teeth” method, which also provides a satisfying Tse to my yearning for Tao, if you get my drift, although Benjamin Hoff’s excellent books are ultimately unrelated.
And then of course there is direction, and this really is the tricky bit. Too much flight to the top ends in some spray, too much to the bottom and you have uncouth drops on the chin.
So aim for that plug hole, spit and be damned!