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Why Geeks Spit

For an unparalleled wine education
Margaret Shugart, 10:15am, Fri. Aug. 16, 2013

If you scoff at those snobs who spit wine, I recommend attending TexSom to learn why it is necessary sometimes. This year, I tasted over 100 wines a day, and I was in the lower tasting percentile. TexSom offers an opportunity for exposure to education, experts, and beverages like no other wine conference open to the public in the country.

Started by Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks in 2004, and co-presented by The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas and The Guild of Sommeliers, TexSom was designed to support the sommelier community in Texas. Now the conference draws top wine talent from around the country to teach, participate, and mingle for three days at the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas in Irving. It is a multi-faceted event with daytime panels focused on a variety of topics including specific wine regions, grape varieties, liquors, tasting techniques, industry ethics and trends; most classes are paired with associated beverages to illustrate the lesson. In the evening, attendees are invited to taste a seemingly infinite number of wines, from hospitality suites sponsored by producers, importers, and regions, to a Grand Tasting with over sixty tables, offering 175 bottles from around the world.

Attendees don’t just spit to avoid consuming massive amounts of alcohol. They spit so they can pay attention and absorb valuable information delivered by the people you buy Wine Spectator, Decanter, and Imbibe to read about, there in the flesh, waxing wise on everything they are tasting and beyond.

Studying wine is nothing like traditional schooling. Serious students have to develop skills of restraint and poise in the face of being tipsy (or three-sheets to the wind), as well as the ability to battle through any hangover. There are no excuses the day after. In the words of my wine teacher’s mentor: “Whatever happens, don’t be a wuss.” Thanks to the spitting, I drove away with a notebook full of information, pamphlets on exciting wine regions and producers, a fresh inspiration for my career, and only a mild sense of dehydration.

Another important aspect of TexSom is a rigorous competition for the top sommelier in Texas, presented by Texas Monthly. It is battled out between those who really know how to spit. The competition is conducted behind closed doors, where contestants undergo a demanding three-part exam in service, blind tasting, and theory. Like in the movie Somm, participants are pushed to the limits to test their knowledge on wine and their ability to handle abusive service situations. Up against twenty-four other highly qualified competitors, Scott Ota of Arro in Austin secured the title. He is the fifth Austin sommelier to win in the last nine years.

Austin sommeliers Bill Elsey, Scott Ota, Mark Sayre, and Nathan Prater
Photo courtesy of whatareyoudrinking.net

Ready to test your spitting skills? The tenth annual TexSom conference will be held August 9-11, 2014. Keep an eye out for registration. Tickets go quickly.

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