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'Alcohol is ultimately stronger than anyone's constitution,' as American wine expert Jeff Morgan said. You should always spit out the wine you taste - any taster who didn't would become incapable after half an hour.

Spittoons are provided at all tastings. They may take the shape of a metallic funnel, a box filled with sawdust, or any other bowl-shaped receptacle. At seated tastings, individual receptacles like ice buckets or plastic jugs are provided.

You should spit the wine firmly and accurately in a single jet through pursed lips. Practising at home beforehand in front of a mirror can often help. Etiquette dictates that precedence is always given at the spittoon - you should never spit diagonally across another taster. You should also try not to address a question to a taster who is obviously concentrating on a mouthful of wine.

Tasting 100 wines over three or four hours has some effect on the senses. No matter how carefully you spit, you are absorbing alcohol through your nose, your sinus and your throat.

Decanter.com consultant editor Steven Spurrier, who routinely tastes 500 wines a week in the tasting season, is in no doubt of the intoxicating effect of tasting.

'I get pretty light-headed,' he says. 'I can see by the quality of my handwriting between note 1 and note 100 that it's had an effect.'

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