Wine 101: Spit!

When I asked Jonathon Alsop, founder of Boston Wine School, what’s the first thing you teach new students, I was surprised by his response.

The first lesson in Wine 101 is how to spit, he said.

How to spit!?

Not what kind of grape makes what color wine or why some wines taste like tropical fruit and other wines are smoky. Nope.

That's Jonathon Alsop grinning because he's got wine in his grasp. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

That’s Jonathon Alsop grinning because he’s got wine in his grasp. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

I asked him to explain more, and this is what he said: Spit happens.

His reasoning: when you’re drinking wine at dinner, you swallow it, but when you’re learning to taste wine you don’t.

“Spitting out the wine you just tasted is the first step in getting ready to taste another wine.  Swallowing the wine you just tasted is the first step in getting hammered,” said Alsop, author of The Wine Lover’s Devotional: 365 Days of Knowledge, Advice & Lore for the Ardent Aficionado.

Jonathon Alsop operates the Boston Wine School, but also frequently writes about wine. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

Jonathon Alsop operates the Boston Wine School, but also frequently writes about wine. (Courtesy: Boston Wine School)

I’ve been wine-tasting many times and I don’t think I ever spit out my wine. I’ve definitely dumped a glass and grabbed a handful of oyster crackers to scrub away a bad taste, but spitting in front of someone who just poured me a glass, I couldn’t imagine myself doing that. But maybe I should start.

“If you went to a wine festival and just drank wine, you’d probably taste a couple of different wines at first, but eventually, as you grew immobile, you’d only be drinking wines you could stagger to,” Alsop said. “By having good spit discipline, you can keep your wits about you and taste 100 wines, and even remember a lot of them.”

At the Boston Wine School, they take alliteration seriously. Here are his seven steps for tasting wine:  See. Sniff. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Swish. Spit.

Alsop said he teaches in a “100% snob-free zone” where any level of wino can learn.

If you were going to take a Wine 101 class, what would you want to learn? If you had to teach a Wine 101 class, what would be the first thing you taught? I’m really curious. Tell me in the comments!

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