Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wine for Dummies ~ To Spit or Not to Spit? That is the question...

How to Spit Wine Like a Pro

It's hard enough for some people to make the transition to actually spitting out the wine, but when they finally do, they're faced with the daunting task of actually getting it in the bucket, which is harder than it looks, especially at crowded wine tastings where they're just as likely to get it all over themselves or someone else than the bucket.

Spitting is a skill that separates the novice from the professional wine taster. Enjoy, and remember to practice with water first.

As an alcoholic drink, wine can affect the consumer's judgment. At formal tastings wine tasters spit the wine out after they have assessed its quality. However, since wine is absorbed through the skin inside the mouth, tasting from twenty to twenty-five samplings can produce an intoxicating effect, depending on the alcoholic content of the wine.

It is not considered rude to spit out wine at a winery, even in the presence of the wine maker or owner. Generally, a spittoon will be provided. In some regions of the world, tasters simply spit on the floor or onto gravel surrounding barrels. It is polite to inquire about where to spit before beginning tasting.

To spit or not to spit?

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. In wineries, professional tasters sometimes spit right onto the gravel floor or into the drains. In more elegant surroundings, they spit into a spittoon, usually a simple container like a large plastic cup (one per taster) or an ice bucket that two or three tasters share.

Many people are averse to spitting out wine. Not only have they been brought up to believe that spitting is rude, but they've also paid good money for the opportunity to taste the wines. Why waste them?

Drinking all of your wine at a tasting is not advisable 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.

More wine etiquette:

Because smell is such an important aspect of wine tasting, courteous tasters try not to interfere with other tasters' ability to smell. This means:

• Smoking (anything) is a complete no-no at any wine tasting.

• Using any scent (perfume, after-shave lotion, scented hair spray, and so on) is undesirable. These foreign odors can really interfere with your fellow tasters' ability to detect the wine's aroma.

• Courteous wine tasters also do not volunteer their opinions about a wine until other tasters have had a chance to taste the wine. Serious tasters like to form their opinions independently and are sure to throw dirty looks at anyone who interrupts their concentration. Most of these wine-tasting etiquette guidelines apply to wine classes as well — and are also relevant when you visit wineries around the world.

Read more:
Wine for Dummies

Monday, October 11, 2010

Walk softly, and carry a little stick...

Zaccagnini Il Vino Dal Tralcetto
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007

I love this wine, and - I love this bottle!  It's a new wine for us at World Market -  brought in for our annual red wine sale - and when I opened the case I was immediately captivated by the presentation of the bottle. I'm not usually a "label" buyer, but this is really an intriguingly beautiful piece of marketing magic.
The bottle, as you can see, has a little stick tied around the neck with a piece of raffia that runs down and under the label. It's not really a "stick" per se (it's more like a twig), it's a piece of grapevine from the vineyard where the grapes were sourced. Besides being a great marketing ploy, it's a terrific recycling effort using the (usually trashed or burned) vines that are pruned during the course of a normal year.
The use of vine cuttings on wine bottles isn't new, and a few other producers adorn their bottles in this manner. (And yes, I bought those wines, too! Okay, I'm a sucker for anything "wine" and the idea of having a bit of the vine that produced the bottle that I happen to be drinking... Well, that just heightens my enjoyment of the wine itself!)
Ahhh, but what of the wine itself? Deep pomegranate in color, with a magenta rim, the wine smells a bit gamey, with black raspberries and a whisper of black licorice or anisette. The game notes blow off with a bit of glass swirling, but are replaced by a smoky flavor, soft tannins and dry, sour cherries with a bit of chalk-dust minerality. There is a nice amount of acidity, making food pairings quite easy. The Cantina Zaccagnini is medium-bodied - not too many legs or tears on the glass, and weighs in at 13% ABV. Fermented in steel, followed by 4 months in Slavonic oak.

All in all, a wine that you can buy for yourself, or give as a gift... If you loved the beautiful bottle and presentation, so will everyone else. After all, who doesn't want to own a piece of a vineyard?
Find it ~ Buy it ~ Try it ~ Love it!
Salud! KathyD
 PS ~ I opened a bottle of Zaccagnini while doing this review, afterward I sat down to some cheese ravioli with marinara sauce and parmesean cheese - OMGosh, suddenly the wine became fuller, bigger and richer. As I said, a wine that is perfect with food! You gotta try this wine.

PPS ~ I had a half bottle of the wine left, so I corked it and left it on the counter. The next night, prepared dinner of pasta florentine and poured a glass of the left-over Zaccagnini to accompany it, as I raised the glass for the sniffy-sniff I was struck by the powerful aromatics of the wine. It was much more open than the first night and fruit-forward in its nose. Had the flavor changed as well?
I sipped and discovered that the acidity and tannins had greatly softened. It was like drinking silk ~ truly lovely. The pairing with spinach was NOT a good one; I'd recommend sticking with a traditional red sauce. Salud! KathyD

$15.99 Sale @ World Market - Reg. $23.99
Not widely available... Check a fine wine store if there isn't a World Market in your area.
The Wine Advocate likes it, too! 90 Points
"Deep garnet-purple colour. Ripe cherry and tobacco leaf aromas with a touch of game. Medium-full body with good concentration of fruit and a medium to high level of balancing acidity. Medium+ level of grainy tannins. Long finish. Tasted July 2009."

Zaccagnini Il Vino Dal Tralcetto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007

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