Wine Corner: The Art of Spitting

written by Josiah Kahiu 14th October 2018

Our in-house oenologist, Josiah Kahiu, shares his experience from the Cape Wine Festival and expounds on the difference between MCC and Champagne.

When you first open up a wine feature, spitting is usually one of the few things you would expect to read about. After all, wine is often associated with sophistication, etiquette and social setting. So what does this gesture often associated with anger or disgust have to do with wine? And when do we use this art of spitting, or expectorating, both of which do not roll off the tongue with a pleasant sound in a wine setting? The answer is simple: it is an occupational necessity when you expect to taste 50 or more wines per day.

Photo: https://www.capewine2018.com

Photo: https://www.capewine2018.com

I recently had the pleasure of attending CapeWine 2018, a huge wine trade show that occurs once every three years. For those of you that attended the Yummy Wine festival earlier this year, think ten times bigger, attended by people who would wax lyrical about anything that has to do with wine. There were hundreds of producers all showcasing their magical liquid products. Luckily enough for me, it was not my first plunge into this setting which can at first be overwhelming and intimidating. During my first wine event of this magnitude, I did not fully comprehend how to spit and often felt very self-conscious about doing it. Noticeably though, this did not affect Europeans, who were completely uninhibited when it came to spitting out out their wines. My first instance of spitting out wine was unflattering to say the least. It came out as a slow dribble down my chin with a few drops finding a home on my white shirt – not a good look.

Photo: https://www.capewine2018.com

So why do people spit out wine? Firstly, to avoid getting tipsy. The result of not efficiently spitting is brain fog. After around eight wines during a tasting, it becomes noticeably harder to to focus on your main purpose – discovering new tastes. This coupled with palate fatigue which happens when swallowing wines makes it harder for you to differentiate a Merlot from a Cab. When it comes to spitting, the technique is quite easy. After tasting the wine and swirling it around your mouth, suck your cheeks in and form an “O” shape with your lips. Lean towards the bucket and try push the wine out in a gentle stream. Do not try to use a blowing action as the effect is a quite undesirable wine shower. This may sound easy but it is probably best to start practising in the shower or near a sink (with something other than wine, of course). Generally it is considered bad form to dribble wine down your chin or spray it out.

Photo: https://www.capewine2018.comI recently had the pleasure of attending CapeWine 2018, a huge wine trade show that occurs once every three years. For those of you that attended the Yummy Wine festival earlier this year, think ten times bigger, attended by people who would wax lyrical about anything that has to do with wine. There were hundreds of producers all showcasing their magical liquid products. Luckily enough for me, it was not my first plunge into this setting which can at first be overwhelming and intimidating. During my first wine event of this magnitude, I did not fully comprehend how to spit and often felt very self-conscious about doing it. Noticeably though, this did not affect Europeans, who were completely uninhibited when it came to spitting out out their wines. My first instance of spitting out wine was unflattering to say the least. It came out as a slow dribble down my chin with a few drops finding a home on my white shirt – not a good look. So why do people spit out wine? Firstly, to avoid getting tipsy. The result of not efficiently spitting is brain fog. After around eight wines during a tasting, it becomes noticeably harder to to focus on your main purpose – discovering new tastes. This coupled with palate fatigue which happens when swallowing wines makes it harder for you to differentiate a Merlot from a Cab. When it comes to spitting, the technique is quite easy. After tasting the wine and swirling it around your mouth, suck your cheeks in and form an “O” shape with your lips. Lean towards the bucket and try push the wine out in a gentle stream. Do not try to use a blowing action as the effect is a quite undesirable wine shower. This may sound easy but it is probably best to start practising in the shower or near a sink (with something other than wine, of course). Generally it is considered bad form to dribble wine down your chin or spray it out.

Photo: https://www.capewine2018.com/

With all that said, it is worthwhile remembering that going for a wine tasting should be a fun event. Try not to get too caught up in the social etiquette of it. If you want to try as many different types of wine as your palate can handle, try to spit. Equally, if you have ever watched the movie Sideways, do not drink from the spit bucket!

What is the difference between MCC and Champagne?

When it comes to sparkling wines, Méthode Cap Classique or MCC is quite similar to Champagne but not entirely the same. One main difference is that Champagne can only be made with grapes grown in a specific area (Champagne) in the North East of France. Champagne is made from still wine usually Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and is made using a second round of fermentation after the base wine has been formed. This secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle creating the natural fizz in the bottle. It is important to note that unlike most sparkling wines, no carbon dioxide is added to making Champagne.

Both Champagne and MCC use the traditional French fermenting method which can be quite labour intensive. MCC is generally a term used to describe South African sparkling wines made from the traditional secondary fermentation process. Grapes are picked early in the season to ensure they are low in sugar and high in acid. The resulting wine made from these grapes undergoes a secondary fermentation in bottle where the bubbles are created by a process of natural fermentation as opposed to artificially adding carbonation like most sparkling wines.

MCCs are a good alternative to Champagne due to their affordability and are often on par with most Champagnes. Above all, Champagne and MCCs are elegant, refined, good for a multitude of occasions and are most importantly delicious!

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