How to Hold a Wine Glass – Red & White (Stemmed & Stemless)

people holding glasses and eating

Are you attending a wine tasting party and need to know the proper way to hold a wine glass?

Perhaps you’re hosting a party and want to brush up on wine etiquette before your guests arrive. Maybe you’re new to wine drinking and unsure how to hold a wine glass properly.

Whatever your reason may be, it’s beneficial to learn the correct technique for holding a traditional wine glass.

hands holding glasses of red wine

Why You Need to Know How to Hold a Wine Glass Properly

It may not seem like it, but knowing how to hold a wine glass properly is important, as holding it improperly can negatively impact the wine inside. It’s something essential to enjoy the full wine-tasting experience. Wine, in general, is a complex beverage that demands attention to detail.

There is a wide range of wine varieties available, made from different types of grapes and produced using various methods. There are even different approaches to storing and making wine. Moreover, when it comes to enjoying wine, there are also various ways to drink it and different ways to hold a wine glass.

Holding a wine glass properly can enhance the overall wine-tasting experience and showcase your understanding of wine. It helps in maintaining the wine’s temperature and minimizes the risk of spills or accidents.

Correctly holding the wine glass also allows you to fully appreciate the flavors and shows good etiquette when interacting with others.

How To Hold a Wine Glass Properly

Let’s learn about the different parts of a wine glass and the proper way to hold it:

parts of a wine glass explained

Parts of a Wine Glass

Traditional wine glasses have a rim, bowl, stem, and base.

The rim is the top part of the wine glass where we drink wine from. The bowl of the wine glass is where the wine is poured, and the stem is the skinny part under the bowl. It’s long, thin, and pretty fragile. The base of the wine glass is the flat disc-shaped part at the bottom which you use to set it on tables.

You might assume that to hold a wine glass by the bowl would provide a better grip or reduce the risk of it being knocked over. However, this is actually incorrect and not the recommended approach.(1)

holding the stem of a glass of white wine

Hold the Stem of the Wine Glass

One general rule for holding a wine glass properly is to minimize skin contact with the bowl, so you should avoid touching the bowl as much as possible and instead hold the stem of the wine glass.

The stemmed wine glass exists for a reason. Holding your wine glasses by the fragile stem might seem like the wrong thing to do at first. However, this technique provides you with greater control to swirl the wine glass, which helps release its delightful aromas. By holding the stem, you can fully savor the experience of your vino.

This goes for all wine glasses, even a Champagne glass.

different glasses for wine

The reason for avoiding holding the bowl of a wine glass is that the warmth of your hands can raise the temperature of the wine inside, potentially compromising its flavors. Holding the bowl can also leave fingerprints on the wine glass, affecting its appearance.

While fingerprints may not appear to be a concern in a social setting where they might go unnoticed, they can actually carry dust, dirt, and grease that can potentially impact the wine’s aromas when you attempt to smell it.

Wine also has a beautiful color and smudging your wine glass can take away from enjoying it. 

Hold the stem of the wine glass delicately with your fingers instead of gripping the bowl with your hand. This helps prevent temperature changes and reduces the likelihood of leaving fingerprints, making it easier to clean the wine glasses afterward.

holding a glass of red wine

Use a Few Fingers

While holding the stem of the wine glass, stick to using your thumb and index finger, and leave the rest of your fingers to lie and relax at the base of the stemmed wine glass.

Make sure to pinch the wine glass towards the bottom rather than the top to decrease the chances of spillage. Avoid gripping the wine glass too tightly to prevent the risk of breaking it. Instead, maintain a relaxed yet firm grip on the stem of the wine glass.

two wine glasses without a stem

How to Hold a Stemless Wine Glass Properly

After discussing the importance of holding the stem of a wine glass, you may wonder how to handle a stemless wine glass. Let’s learn the proper way to handle it:

The Challenge of Holding Stemless Wine Glasses

When it comes to stemless wine glasses, it is inevitable to have some physical contact while holding them. That’s one of the reasons why these wine glasses are often considered less desirable for wine tasting experiences.

However, even with stemless wine glasses, it is still recommended to minimize direct contact with the bowl as much as possible to preserve the temperature and prevent fingerprints on the glass.

glasses on a table with truffle chocolates

Holding Techniques for Stemless Wine Glasses

You can cradle the bottom of the stemless wine glass with your thumb and index finger and let it rest on your middle finger. It is generally advisable to place your stemless wine glass on a table or a stable surface whenever possible.

This provides a more secure and balanced placement for the stemless wine glass, reducing the chances of accidental tipping or spilling.

glasses without a stem on a countertop

Placing the Wine Glass on a Stable Surface

Setting your stemless wine glass on a surface ensures that no one is inadvertently warming up the wine beyond the ideal temperature by holding the glass. This is indeed a recommended practice when enjoying wine from stemless glasses.

Taking this small step can make a significant difference in preserving the wine’s optimal temperature and enhancing the overall tasting experience.

three glasses of rose wine

Cupping the Bowl to Adjust Wine Temperature

If the wine is served at a colder temperature than desired, you can cup the bowl of a stemless wine glass briefly to warm it up slightly. Still, be careful and only do this for a limited time, as excessive heat can affect the wine’s flavors.

Use this method sparingly and ensure not to overheat the wine in the process.

two glasses of white wine and the sun in the background

The Importance of Temperature

Different types of wine have specific temperature preferences, and to hold a wine glass incorrectly can impact the wine’s temperature. The wrong temperatures can negatively affect the taste of the wine.

For example, chilled white or sparkling wine is best enjoyed when served at the recommended temperature. This allows the acidity and fruity flavors to shine. Serving these wines too warm can mute the flavors and make them less refreshing.

smelling wine's aroma at a tasting

Similarly, red wine is less appealing when served at the wrong temperature. The right temperature allows you to fully appreciate the wine’s nuances and quench your thirst, especially on warmer days.

To maintain the wine’s temperature, it is recommended to use stemmed wine glasses with large bowls, particularly for a red wine like Pinot Noir. This helps avoid unnecessary contact with the bowl. Choosing stemmed wine glasses over stemless options is a wise choice in most cases.

holding two glasses of white wine in a vinyard

Other Tips

Knowing how to hold a wine glass correctly and why you should is important. But there are other things you can do too that will elevate your wine drinking experience:

Don’t Fill Your Wine Glass Entirely

To enhance your wine-drinking experience, it’s recommended not to fill your wine glass to the brim.

Pouring the wine all the way to the top limits its ability to breathe and makes it difficult to swirl. Leaving some breathing space and room for swirling is important. Swirling allows the wine to release its rich aromas, enhancing the overall wine’s flavor profile.

Instead, aim to fill your wine glass halfway or less, allowing ample space for swirling. For stability and ease, perform the swirling motion on a steady surface like a table or kitchen counter, rather than in your hands.

a lot of wine glasses filled with different wines

Sip From One Spot

When sipping on the wine, make sure to sip from one spot.

Sipping from the same spot helps prevent unwanted smudges, such as chapstick or lipstick stains, which can make the glass appear dirty. Plus, it simplifies the cleaning process once your guests have departed, as it minimizes the amount of residue left behind.

Since most of us prefer less cleaning rather than more, this tip can certainly save you some time in the kitchen.

This practice applies to both stemmed and stemless wine glasses, ensuring a cleaner and more enjoyable wine tasting experience.

holding two glasses of rose in front of the sea

Be Gentle

Be mindful that most traditional wine glasses are very fragile and can break easily, so handle them with extra care. Always hold a wine glass gently and be sure to set it down gently on the table as well.

Avoid gripping the wine glass stem too close to the bowl as this can increase the risk of knocking over the glass. You don’t want to spill that precious wine, right? Stick to gripping the stem towards the bottom using your pointer finger and middle finger.

Make sure to use the right glassware, something that’s sturdy and not too fragile. When sipping on fine wine in social situations, it is recommended to use a good quality wine glass. Don’t take a chance with something that could easily break.

clinking with two glasses of red wine

Have Good Posture

Maintaining good posture while holding a wine glass is beneficial for various reasons. Not only does it benefit your overall body health, but it also enhances your confidence and gives off an air of sophistication. It helps to replicate the mindset of a wine connoisseur.

When enjoying wine in the company of others, paying attention to your sitting posture is important. How we sit can communicate a lot about ourselves.

To present yourself as a knowledgeable wine enthusiast, it’s recommended to sit up straight and tall when drinking wine. This posture not only exudes confidence but also reduces the likelihood of spills or accidental knocks.

woman pouring champagne in a glass

Final Words of Advice on How to Hold a Wine Glass

How you hold a stemmed wine glass can significantly impact your wine-drinking experience and reflect your etiquette.

Mastering the proper techniques for holding a wine glass by the stem adds elegance to your wine-drinking ritual and demonstrates your knowledge. It allows you to maintain the wine’s ideal temperature, preserve its aroma, and fully savor its flavor profile.

Wine is a delicate beverage, and even slight temperature changes can have a significant impact on its quality. That’s why understanding how to hold a wine glass correctly is very important.

Remember to choose the appropriate glassware, maintain a relaxed grip on the stem, minimize contact with the glass, and adopt good posture. Maintaining good posture not only enhances your overall appearance, but also reduces the risk of spills.

By avoiding accidents and mishaps, you can elevate your experience, whether at wine-tasting events or social gatherings.

Now that you are equipped with the knowledge of how to hold a wine glass, cheers! Feel confident attending parties or hosting your own, knowing how to hold a wine glass elegantly and enjoying the full experience of wine.

Stan Kushkin

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