Tactful Tasting

I'll admit, Emily Post rhetoric is not my style. But sometimes I cringe when poser wine tasters commit truly offensive faux pas at large tastings. Yeah, yeah, I know this is supposed to be the new era of "live and let live" and "wine for the people" but it's kinda gross to see people spit, miss the bucket or, worse, splatter my shoe. Ewww.

In the past weeks I've hit quite a few wine tastings, ranging from Atlanta Creative Loafing's casual, low-key Buckhead Wine Festival to the hoity-toity Aspen Food & Wine Festival. Both featured great people watching and gave me a fun column idea. I learned that no matter how much money you have, you can still piss off everyone around you with etiquette ignorance. Here are some of the most frequent, hyper-annoying offenses:

1. Ever the sign of wine geekdom, spitting wine is helpful for many reasons: It avoids embarrassing inebriation and allows you to taste more wines without falling over. Believe me, it doesn't offend the pourer. But for everyone's sake, spit in a smaller glass or cup and not directly into the bucket. If a small vessel isn't available, pick up the bucket and discreetly expectorate into it. This way, aim becomes less important (and keep in mind aim worsens as you drink). Also, try perfecting the art of spit at home before you try it in public.

2. When you approach a crowded table with several wines to taste, get your wine and get the hell out of the way. There is nothing more irritating to other tasters — or the wine pourer, for that matter — than a camper who wants to wax philosophical and try to impress everyone unfortunate enough to be standing around. We don't care what esoteric wine knowledge you possess. Move your loudmouth away from the table and let people through to the juice. If you'd like to talk with the wine professional, come back later when the crowd isn't as thick.

3. Don't block the dump bucket. The best way to get red wine down your pants is to camp in front of the dump bucket (refer to tip No. 2).

4. Don't wear gallons of cologne or perfume. Try sniffing a delicate Sauvignon Blanc when the chick next to you is drowning in Eau de Whatever. Somehow, the olfactory glands will translate that sweet smell to the taste of the wine every time. If you must wear a scent, spray on some Chardonnay before you leave the house.

5. Don't wear light-colored clothes. You'll regret it and get really miffed when someone accidentally spills dark red Cabernet on your pressed white pants. Red wine is really hard to get out of clothes (but give Wine Away a try).

To prove a point, take this column to the next tasting you attend. If you spot someone who lacks wine manners, tuck the words into their pocket and discreetly flick red wine on their white shirt. Maybe they'll get the hint and you'll save the world from yet another Emily Post reject.

Recommended Wines:

Curtis 2000 Heritage Rose A blend of several Rhone grapes, this elegant rose is rich-flavored, big in the mouth and delicious. Amazing value at $10.

Hardy's 1999 Tintara Cabernet Fruit forward for a Cab, and so easy to drink. It's got some tannin, but has earthy, dark cherry flavors and yummy caramel ($18).

Callaway 2000 Coastal Sauvignon BlancCitrus-y, like a Sprite without the fizz and sugar. Clean drinkin', light and refreshing. Perfect for summer ($10).

E-mail Corkscrew at [email protected], write to 1310 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa, FL 33605 or fax 813-248-9999.

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