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Not on My Shoe

The ins and outs of wine tastings.

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Is there anything more annoying than a blowhard? I know every profession has their nemeses, and mine are the numbskulls who insist on spewing their wine knowledge, attempting to impress spectators at wine tastings. These lingerers monopolize a pourer's time (especially a celebrity winemaker), elbowing out others who might just want to taste and avoid getting sprayed with narcissism. Besides a kick in the ass, blowhards need a lesson in etiquette, and wine-tasting season is upon us. Here's a list of etiquette points à la Emily Post that should help you navigate the sea of ascot-wearing wine blowhards:

· Although it ain't pretty, spitting wine helps avoid embarrassing inebriation, lets you taste more without passing out, and reserves your tastebuds for more juice. It really doesn't offend the pourers, so long as stray spray doesn't hit their shoes or, worse yet, their face. But the spit bucket isn't for everyone. Before debuting your spurting skills, practice aim at home. Tips: Purse your lips and roll your tongue to force it out in a steady stream. If practice hasn't made your spittoon technique perfect, grab a glass or cup to serve as your mini-crachoir. (Sounds better in French, non?) If a small vessel isn't available, lift the bucket and discreetly expectorate into it. Keep in mind that your aim worsens as you drink.

· Don't block the spit bucket. The best way to get red wine spilled down your pants is to be the roadblock to dumping.

· When approaching a crowded table with a large wine selection, get your wine and get the hell out of the way. Camping around the pourer to wax philosophical only exacerbates everyone's irritation. If the pourer is talking, listen from the side if you can. If you have specific questions, come back later when the crowd isn't as thick.

· Respect the people behind the table. Pourers are there to educate about their wares, so pay some attention. Often, wineries have donated their product and time to introduce their selections to the public and if all you're doing is stepping in front of them and saying, "Chardonnay, please," then walking away, their trip from California or Europe is kinda wasted.

· Don't wear cologne or perfume. Your nose is the entryway into taste when drinking, before the wine ever hits your palate. If you sniff a delicate Sauvignon Blanc with someone next to you drowning in Eau de Whatever, your olfactory glands will translate that sweet, rubbing-alcohol smell to the taste of the wine.

· Don't wear light-colored clothes. You'll regret it and get really miffed when someone accidentally spills a dark Cabernet on your pressed white pants. Red wine is really hard to remove; you might carry a spray bottle of Wine Away.

Recommended Wines

Sincerely 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch -- Tastes like homemade grapefruit sorbet fresh from a frozen stainless-steel container. Aromatic with green grass and lemon zest. Great price for the quality. $13.

JackeRoo 2003 Shiraz -- One of the best values out of Australia right now, this newly imported wine passes all the tests. It's not too complicated, but for $6, it's a perfect choice for everyday. Red fruits like cranberry surf on the tongue, while violets join in. $6.

Queen of Hearts 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Barbara -- Rich, earthy, and fragrant with lush dark cherry and mushrooms. Even a bit of blueberry thrown in there. At this price, who could ask for more? $10.

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