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Ask a Pro: Why do some people slurp wine?

I always thought wine connoisseurs where very posh people; until I went to my first wine appreciation class.  If you want to taste like a pro, you have to forget everything your parents taught you about table manners. Go ahead give that wine a good slurp and if you are feeling really brave, try your aim and expectorate in that spittoon! 

So, what’s with the slurping?  

A lot of the pleasure we get out of wine comes from its aromas, so take the time to smell your wine.  Most of what we call taste, actually comes from what we are smelling. This is where the slurping comes in.  

A sommelier, for example, will take a sip of wine, and usually swish the liquid around for a quick moment in the mouth. This is sort of like a warm up, they’re getting a feel for the wine; it’s texture, weight and also the acidity and tannin levels.  Next, they hold the wine on their tongue, sometimes with pursed lips, and breathe in over the wine. The not-so-posh slurping sound happens due to the incredible feat of inhaling while also holding a liquid in your mouth. Disclaimer – your throat must stay closed to avoid choking.  Your mouth has now become a mini decanter with the function of aerating the wine. This is a legitimate wine tasting process called “in mouth breathing” or more technically “retronasal olfaction”.

As rude as it sounds and silly as it looks, the pros rely on these techniques to better smell their wine.  As one slurps, the wine’s aromas float up behind the uvula (that dangly thing at the back of your throat) to your nasal cavity where olfactory receptors do their thing in processing scent and sending those messages to our brains. 

In short: people who slurp their wine are not obnoxious; they are just trying to get the most out of their mouthful of wine in order to taste it and enjoy it to the fullest.  

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