The wineries will all have spit buckets which you may use to empty your glass, or to spit, if you decide that you do not wish to swallow the wine. This is perfectly acceptable and permits you to use your finite capacity for actually drinking wine to ones that you might enjoy more. On occasion, the buckets are not at hand – please do not be shy about requesting one!
All the swirling and sniffing might seem like an affectation, but these steps really serve an important purpose: helping us make sense of the complex and mysterious nuances of wine.
Use your tongue. When tasting, don’t just gulp only to swallow immediately thereafter. Our taste organs (taste buds) are distributed all over our tongues. Some regions of the tongue are thought to be more responsive to specific taste characteristics. (You can learn more about the physiology of smell and taste as well as how to train your senses here). For this reason, you should draw some wine into your mouth and refrain from swallowing immediately.
Swish the wine around your mouth. You don’t need to be vigorous - you’re not fighting dental plaque. Just get the wine in contact with all surfaces of your mouth (including the insides of your cheeks). What is your sense of the body or fullness or weight of the wine? What is its texture? Is it smooth, sleek, coarse, harsh, juicy? Just as with aroma, the "mouth" - the flavors of the wine - can be as rich and complex and the more exquisite gain their wines high standing. Finally, most of our perception of taste is actually smell as aromas make their way through the back of the throat, up to the back of the nose and on up.
After swallowing exhale through the nose. This reveals another side to the wine's characteristics because the chemistry of the mouth changes some of the physical properties of the aromatic components of wine. Some tasters will purse their lips as if to whistle and draw in air, letting it gurgle gently through the wine and exhale through the nose. This draws out some aromatic elements. A little slurping is perfectly OK in a tasting room or when you are tasting alone or in a group at home. Finally, take a moment to see what flavors linger and how long. This is called the "finish" and is a valued element of wine.
Refresh your palate. Often the tasting room offer crackers or other things to accent the wine’s taste or to clear you nose and palate between wines. Take advantage of this. If you have some lingering flavors of what you ate earlier, try water or that baggie of plain water crackers in your pocket. Check your other pocket for the baggie with the coffee beans. Some wines may naturally have mocha and coffee notes so be considerate of others when using these tricks.
For more graphic information and a "how to" example, click here for the How To video
Professional wine tasters long ago discovered that if they swallow every wine they taste, they're far less thoughtful tasters by the time they reach wine nine or ten. So spitting became acceptable.
At first, naturally, some tasters are loath to spit out wine. Not only have they been brought up to believe that spitting is uncouth, but they've also paid good money for the opportunity to taste the wines. Why waste them?
Well, you can drink all of your wine at a wine tasting, if you wish — and some people do. But we don't advise that you do, for the following reasons:
Evaluating the later wines will be difficult if you swallow the earlier ones. The alcohol you consume will cloud your judgment.
Swallowing isn't really necessary in order to taste the wine fully. If you leave the wine in your mouth for eight to ten seconds, you'll be able to taste it thoroughly — without having to worry about the effects of the alcohol.
If you're driving to the tasting, you're taking a risk driving home afterwards if you drink instead of spit. The stakes are high — your life and health, others' lives, and your driver's license. Why gamble?
The simple solution: Spit out the wine. Just about all experienced wine tasters do. Believe it or not, spitting will seem to be a very normal thing to do at wine tastings after a while. (And, in the meantime, it's one sure way to appear more experienced than you are!)
For more graphic information and how to example, click here for the How To video