Consensus is split fifty/fifty on this issue. If you ask a pro, most of them will tell you to spit. If you ask an amateur, beginner or even some enthusiasts they’ll tell you if it’s good then swallow and don’t waste a drop.
Living in California within short distance of wine country, wine tasting is an activity that most of us enjoy, especially when we host visitors from out of town.
There is always a wine tasting event around us in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Napa or Sonoma that allows us to taste tens and sometimes hundreds of wines. So how do you do it?
We taste wine through multiple senses, eyes, nose and mouth which provides us with a sense of profile and developing a taste that most suits our personal pallet.
A human nose has around 400 types of scent receptors. Researchers had previously estimated that humans could sense only about 10,000 odors but the number had never been explicitly tested before. Based on new study, there are roughly 1 trillion scents that the human nose and brain are capable of distinguishing from each other. Imagine that? The reason I bring this up is because most of us are so intimidated when tasting wines to say the right thing, such as smelling the aromas that the rest of our friends are depicting. To be able to detect aromas you must train your nose and develop a filing system in your brain. You may recall upon it by comparing aromas to it and identifying it as you smell it.
Then there is tasting which is accomplished through sipping the wine. The human tongue is mapped into four major tasting areas as follows:
The basics of wine tasting are:
See, and note the color and clarity of the wine.
Swirl, the wine in the glass to release the distinctive scent of the grape varietals expressed in it.
Sniff, by bringing the wine glass close to your nose and smelling it.
Sip, by sipping a small amount and hold the wine in your mouth. Gently draw air through your teeth to direct aromas to the nasal passages.
Savor, and enjoy.
Note any tartness or sweetness. Four sensations - sweet, sour, bitterness and salty - are all perceived through taste. Temperature, tannins (astringency) and the effervescence (bubbles) of sparkling wines are also experienced through the tongue and feel in the mouth.
To taste wine you do not need to swallow but to learn about the finish and balance you do. Most of us approach the idea of wine tasting as a fun activity to get together with friends to savor, enjoy and learn the story behind the wine itself. To most of amateurs, it is a source of entertainment. Professionals on the other hand that sample wines for a living, sometimes taste up to 200 wines in a single day do not enjoy the same luxury, especially if they do it a few times a week.
I personally have a hard time spitting a great and well composed wine that I enjoy, unless I reached my drinking limit.
The American Wine Appassionata