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How to get the most out of your wine tasting without getting wasted

From farming to winemaking to exploring the challenges of being an unknown in the California wine world, I'm an author and award-winning winemaker.

I am a city-girl-gone-country who switched temporarily back to a country-girl-gone-city all for the purpose of learning how to spit.

I once had a happy marriage that was filled with love, three children, respect, honor, loyalty, peace and loving friends. How did I get here, why am I talking about spitting and what exactly am I spitting? I am in Paris, France, the year is 2012 and I am learning how to spit.

My husband was killed in a car accident 10 years ago and just three days before the release of my first book, Seasons Among the Vines: Life Lessons from the California Wine Country. Ten years later when my three children were grown, I was chosen among 20 international students from 14 different countries to attend the first year of a 10-month Wine Management Program at Le Cordon Bleu in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. We were trained by the French on everything there was to know about the international world of wine: terroir, the growing practices of other countries, the other thousands of grape varieties that I didn't know and, most of all, how to smell, swirl and taste some of the finest wines of the world.

But hidden within all that knowledge lies the biggest and most important thing I learned in France after a year of training with some of the most renowned wine teachers in the world: The Art of Spitting. Believe me, there is an art to spitting that doesn't leave you with liquid dribbling down your chin or the horrifying possibility of gagging over an escaped drop slipping down your throat.

Spitting, really? I know this does not make most people happy, especially wine drinkers, but I was taught about tradition and what it takes to really learn about wine. First of all, if you do not spit, then you will be drunk after the third taste of wine and you will "like" everything.

In my classes of wine tasting and the many exclusive tastings we did at swanky Parisian hotels there were always spittoons. In class on blind wine tasting days, there were bad consequences if a student was caught swallowing.

Here are some spitting tips that I picked up in France, hopefully they'll help you along with your wine tasting:

  1. Always have a tissue, napkin or a replaceable shirt to wipe the excess wine from your chin
  2. Always turn your back while spitting because it is considered inappropriate to spit amongst Friends and Family
  3. Always make sure to Spit ALL wine and don't hold remnants in your mouth (for later swallowing)
  4. Always make sure to Spit with the utmost of attention so as to not let any wine drip from your mouth down your chin
  5. And, most of all, have fun and understand that the process of Spitting is a learned and revealing undertaking that involves training and time. (Failure is acceptable in training and a natural befalling.)
Photo credit: Max Braun/Flickr
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