ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

On spitting—I've been wondering how to do this so that I don't resemble a distressed camel. Can you give a few tips? Is it best to spit back into the glass and pour the glass out?

—Susie, Seattle

Dear Susie,

Your main goal with spitting should be to get the wine into the spit bucket or spittoon. (Although sometimes you're allowed to spit on the floor in barrel rooms, ask first!) Don't worry too much about what you look like.

But spitting does take practice so that you don't end up missing, dribbling, or sputtering. Practice while brushing your teeth, or just for fun with water in front of a sink at home. My first advice is to not take the biggest mouthful of wine you can. Start with a small amount of wine in your mouth until you get more comfortable with your skills.

Don't just open your mouth and let the wine fall out. Use your tongue to guide the stream, and the muscles in your mouth and cheeks to force the wine out. Don't go too hard too fast, or it will come out in a spray like a comedic "spit take." Don't go too slow and lax, or the wine will dribble down your chin. Find a happy medium where you're directing the flow, and at the end, give it a little extra force so that the last couple drops end up in the bucket and not on your shirt.

Spitting isn't a long distance event. Get your face over the spit bucket, or grab it and bring it up to your mouth. There are also situations where you are given a cup or personal spittoon to spit it, which is much more discreet. If you can't reach the bucket easily, you can spit into your glass and then pour the glass into the spit bucket. But the problem with that is you can't then take another sip of your wine, and it can also gross some people out.

Watch out for backsplash. The best spit buckets have a lid to prevent this. Even so, backsplash happens. The worst is when the wine gets into your eye. And don't hog the public spit bucket! Step away from it when you're not using it so that others can have access to it.

—Dr. Vinny


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