How To Hold A Wine Glass: A Step By Step Guide On The Etiquette - Wine Turtle

How To Hold A Wine Glass: A Step By Step Guide On The Etiquette

This post was updated on: November 1, 2018

How To Hold A Wine Glass: A Step By Step Guide On The Etiquette

How To Hold A Wine Glass: A Step By Step Guide On The Etiquette

There is a lot to wine than simply drinking it. In fact, drinking wine is a form of art which can be easily ruined by a single move—holding a wine glass the wrong way. Among the rules of wine taking, there are various basic etiquette that are meant to be followed particularly in public or other social drinking occasions. But how to hold a wine glass the right way?

Everything done when drinking wine should be absolutely elegant and classy, therefore, it’s quite requisite that you learn the do’s and the don’ts on selecting the correct glass, holding the glass and also the proper way to taste your wine.

In truth, no one is supposed to train you how to hold a glass; no one really cares how you do it. You are free to drink it anyhow you want whether you are using a straw in a yogurt bottle while making your favorite dance moves or simply sipping it in your favorite mug, the choice solely belongs to you. 

However, as a wine enthusiast, you don’t want to be a spoiler in an elegant wedding party—you know how things can go down ugly and intimidating. While many folks complain that navigating through the world of wine can be quite confusing, you don’t need a winemaker to teach you wine manners for you are going to learn everything from this article.

How to order wine with etiquette?

As a wine enthusiast, there are dozens of things you need to know about the tradition of wine taking. One of them is ordering, particularly in a restaurant. How you comport yourself at the wineries or the words you use to persuade the wine seller to sell you a particular bottle in the cellar is a subject that calls for discussion. Most people pay attention to proper behavior in hotels and restaurants.

Wine is a complex drink with a rich history. So, what are some of the things to do and not to when wine taking?

1. Don’t order only the second or third cheapest wine on the menu

Well, this appears more of a rule. It's very widely accepted and a wise advice in the wine industry—it’s actually more of an industry rule. All right, the third cheapest wine may be just perfect, but ultimately not what you ordered. You may have purchased it not only because it's not the most affordable in the list nor do you appreciate the taste, but because you don’t want to appear too cheap.

If you are low on funds, let the attendant know what you like and inform him of a few wines under your budget and request to be given a bottle with almost similar characteristics. Even if they are not there, the attendant will probably pick a good or better taste using the same price range.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk, ask and get clarity

Shying away only makes you more miserable, and you may not enjoy your wine taking experience as you should. Also, faking confidence just closes of your learning opportunities. For instance, if the waiter walks to you with your wine bottle and calls out the name, they’re simply double checking whether it’s what you ordered. If you did not hear the name or did not understand, don’t pretend to know since you may end up taking what you did not order just because you pretended to know.

If you do not know what you want to take, simply ask the waiter to let you know the available flavors, their characteristics, and the prices. It can be one breathtaking experience to try out something new that the waiters would recommend—which may end up in your future love lists. However, if you know too much about every flavor there is, dispense some of that knowledge to others who may need it, but, just be nice about it. Don’t be a wine snob. Wine enthusiasts are perfectly likable individuals.

3. Don’t sniff

In most restaurants, the attendant will ceremoniously hand you the cork to inspect, but that wisdom is long overdue—the cork can typically tell you nothing. If you’re smart enough, you should know that the perfect marking scheme lies behind the wine itself.  Don’t sniff the cork; you can casually swirl the drink and smell it. Apparently, the smell will hit you as soon as you are done swirling.

When the attendant pours a sample for you before serving the table, they are not in any way favoring you, they’re simply asking whether the wine is still alive or dead. They want to know if the wine survived the container, shipping, the distributor, the cellar and finally to your glass.

4. Only return if its corked not because you don’t like it

There are only two reasons that can warrant for a bottle change. One is if the attendant brought you the wrong bottle. Two, if the wine is technically bad which can be easily detected through smell. However, trying to act tough on the attendant when you fail to enjoy the taste that you requested is total disrespect to the wine industry and the restaurant. A wise strategy is to double check with the waiter before serving.

Choosing the right wine glasses

Types of Wine and Glasses Description: Set of types of wine and glasses red white sparkling and dessert wine.

Like I said earlier, wine drinking is a form of art that requires only perfectionists to perfect it. Typically, you can take wine from whatever vessel you want, whether it’s a coffee mug, a bowl, a yogurt glass, or a fine wine glass, some of us literally don’t care as long as the drink goes down to the right stomach through the right channel. In fact, you can ditch the whole glass story and drink from the bottle.

With that being said, wine glasses are meant for real wine takers. Get it right, drinking wine from a coffee mug doesn’t mean you 're not a wine enthusiast. It only means that you really don’t care a lot to appreciate the glassware industry.

Why do glasses matter?

True wine enthusiasts make the entire wine taking experience a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. The glass smiths also knew the relevance of crafting each wine glass based on what it serves.

Mark Baulderstone, the Managing Director for Riedel Australia says that each glass is designed the way it is  because it is considered to be the fittest wine glass for enjoying that variety of wine.

“What most consumers don’t realize is that they will naturally gravitate to the varietal of wine that best suits their palate. The glass becomes an extension of the wine and its unique characteristics,” –Mark Baulderstone

The glass you use either enhances your wine taking experience or simply ruins it. Science has also backed up the same idea purporting that the various glass shapes profoundly affect the positioned density of vapors at different wine glasses. These vapors are the same ones that carry aromatic compounds and are also responsible for creating the vast majority of flavors in the wine.

For instance, red wine glasses have a big round bowl which impacts the amount of wine that should be exposed to the air. Red wine has a special bond with oxygen as it enhances the taste, the aroma, and the color of the wine. Typically, aged wine enjoys some good quantity of oxygen over the aging period. The wider bowls allow the scent of the wine to spread in the air and also through your mouth as you drink it.

 White wine glasses, on the other hand, enjoy a narrower bowl and narrower brim.  This is because whites have quite some delicate flavors. Narrow glasses channel the subtle aromas to your nose. The rim also influences how the drink is received in your mouth.  How the fluid flows in your mouth determines how you taste the wine.

Whites do not react with air, therefore, do not need to be exposed. That is the same reason the white wine glass is narrow and thinner compared to a red wine glass. In fact, a wider bowl will only make the wine to lose its flavors before you are done drinking.  The acidity in white wine cannot be tampered with.

Air disrupts the acidity of the wine just like sodas; how they go flat after getting exposed to the atmosphere. White wine prefers to be locked in the narrow glass and keep its flavors only to its drinker. A thin rim allows the wine to flow effortlessly straight to your tongue. A narrow rim also ensures that the first drop of the wine drops to your tongue before spreading across the entire mouth.

How to hold a wine glass?

Drinking wine

Choosing the correct type of glass is science on its own—at least, various scientists have confirmed that. It is also a little bit of personal opinion and preference. The same way you choose red wine over white is the same principle applied in crafting different wine glasses for different wines.

The type of glass you use typically has to do with the wine and all its characteristics. Therefore, the wine glass acts as the vessel in delivering the liquid to your mouth for the best experience. Otherwise, we would all just enjoy it straight from the main vessel—the bottle.

The anatomy of the wine glass

A wine glass has four main parts; the base, the bowl, the stem, and the rim. Every part plays a significant role in the wine taking process. The base is the supporting part that holds the whole glass and keeps it stable on the table.

The rim is the uppermost part of the wine glass. Different glasses have different rim diameters. Red wines glasses have a relatively broader rim than white wine glasses. This is because the red wine glasses have to let the wine interact with air to improve its quality, while white wine glasses don’t need air. The rim determines how your mouth receives the wine or how you taste the wine. A thick edge can quickly change the whole tasting experience and completely ruin it as the wine may reach the wrong tasting buds faster than it should. 

 The stem is also one of the most critical parts when it comes to wine holding. It is the part specially made to help you hold the wine correctly without warming it with your warm hands. When holding your wine glass, your hands should keep away from the bowl for two distinct reasons. 

One, your warm hands are at the average room temperature. The wine may not be the same temperature as your hands. Whites chiefly are enjoyed most when chilled. The aromas and the taste are more preserved when the drink is cold than when its warm. If your hands are dirty, maybe from the food, or are simply sweaty and watery, they may ruin the appearance of the wine if you hold it by the bowl.  Holding at that angle also affects the view of wine. You want everyone to see what you’re drinking or at least allow yourself to look at what you are drinking. Holding the glass by the goblet only blocks the view hence partially destroying the experience.

Two, if you’re that party person who enjoys dancing while still stealing some few sips from your wine, you need a better, firmer, and more comfortable grip, which means holding your drink by the stem. However, holding it from the bowl could easily lead to tripping, breaking the glass and losing your precious drink.  The broad bowl of the red wine glass is more dangerous and can easily trip from your hand

The goblet is the central part of the glass as its where the wine settles. White wine glasses have a relatively narrow bowl compared to their white wine counterparts. Red wines appreciate some swirling especially when it’s not a one-person experience.

The large bowl and averagely smaller brim keep the wine from spilling when swirled, while at the same time releasing its aromas to the atmosphere creating a vortex at the middle towards the direction of the drawn compounds. Even the most nuanced flavors can be smelt from far if the bowl has a much larger surface area. 

How to hold a wine glass - a step by step guide

Stem wine glasses

On a chilly Friday night, the only thing you want is an excellent experience with your wine; any small mistake can completely ruin the experience. On other occasions, however, how, or what you do with your wine is nobody’s business.

It doesn’t matter whether you just open and take three or four huge sips from the bottle or you sit and serve yourself elegantly in a table with the correct glass, but when it comes to parties or formal meetings wine manners must prevail which among them mean holding the glass rightly.

All wine glasses are held by the stem. Keep in mind that wine should be served at its correct temperatures—not too cold and not warm. 

Warm wine evaporates the alcohol at a faster pace than when it’s cold, rendering it flat. Too cold a glass of wine results in shutting down its flavors. Imagine serving ice-cream while half of the content is already melted.

When you hold the wine by the stem, you keep the wine at the right temperature, that is if it was served at the right temperature in the first place. If it was served too cold, what should prevent you from holding it by the bowl? Unless you are not that type of person who enjoys touching the frozen stuff, but holding the wine by the bowl will actually normalize the temperatures quickly.

Remember that the drink is already exposed to air and the rate of going flat has already begun. So how do you hold a wine glass?

1. Hold to the stem using your thumb and the first two fingers

Let your thumb and the next two fingers; index finger and the middle finger support it while the rest of the hand rests on the base. As you position your fingers, ensure your middle finger, and the ring finger slightly lies on the base.  This is to maintain a balance and for comfortability. Only the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger should come into contact with the glass stem.

2. Slightly pinch the stem using your thumb and index finger

Let your index finger wrap itself around the stem of the glass, and support the rest of the other side with the tip of the thumb. Maintain your hand positioned towards the lower half of the stem. The remaining three fingers should naturally curl into your palm in the form of a small closed fist. Typically, your fingers won’t touch the base, but once in a while can brush against it.

3. Grab the stem from the base

Grab the stem just from above the base using your index a finger and your thumb. As much as these two fingers touch the glass stem, they may also brush against the top part of the base. Let your middle finger support the glass from beneath the base by stretching it from outwards under the base. The rest of the fingers can then rest naturally or follow the weight.

4. Lever the base with your thumb

Keep the thumb on the base of the glass while at the same time supporting the underside of the base using your middle finger and index finger. With this method, none of your fingers practically touches the stem of the glass. Your pinky, ring, middle an index fingers should all curl gently into your palm and only the top parts of the middle, and index fingers should help support the base. This style is quite acceptable but rarely used as it's not very stable. It is best to practice it when you’re alone or in the company of polite friends.

Stemless wine glasses

There are various stemless glasses made for wine taking but lack stems. Due to one reason or the other, you cannot stop taking wine because you don’t have the right glass. Some of these stemless glasses are made for people who cannot handle the standard stem of the wine glass.

Generally, stemless glasses are held like other regular drinking glasses. You also decide the amount of wine to put as their shape may not give clues. However, when holding them, it's best that you hold from the base but in the middle or top as it can turn out messy if you try to hold from beneath.

Be sure to minimize contact to prevent unnecessary heating from your warm hands. If your drink is quite cold, you can hug the glass with your hands till the temperature becomes bearable. You want to get the best experience irrespective of the type of glass you use.

If the wine is at its right temperatures, only hold it when sipping, make sure the contact is a brief and as infrequent as possible. Prepare or drink from somewhere where you can set down the wine to rest every time you sip. Fingerprints will be inevitable especially with this type of glass., but keeping your hands clean and away from oil can still go a long way towards maintaining a good wine experience.

If you’re hanging out with wine connoisseurs or if you are hanging out with someone you want to impress, it’s best to avoid stemless glasses at all costs.

Essential etiquette tips on holding a wine glass

Looking at Homemade Wine

One way of maintaining wine taking etiquette is holding the wine glass in the right manner. Since the glass usually consists of four parts, if you hold it correctly, it means that you already have a brief understanding of wining etiquette. Wine holding also directly affects the drinking experience and ultimately the taste of the wine. Below are other key concepts related to holding the wine glass.

Rest the glass when necessary

It is good to take considerable periodic breaks after every sip, but because wine is to be enjoyed, having no breaks at all is not a sin. However, if you are unable to rest your glass and feel that you may need to support it in between the sips, you can just let the base of the glass rest on your non-dominant palm of your hand and hold the stem with the dominant hand.

If you are at a dinner table, you need to place the glass of wine on the right side of your water glass. If you don’t have a water glass, put the wine down to the upper left corner of your sitting space.

Sip from the same spot

This rule primarily applies to almost every drinking vessel, particularly for women. If you are wearing lipstick and realizes that its leaving traces of colors on the glass, the wisest decision is to keep sipping the wine from a familiar spot. You don’t want embarrassing yourself messing every part of the glass.

Taking wine is not like drinking water. You want to feel every element in the grapefruit reacting with your saliva. This means that it can take time to finish a quarter glass and the communication with friends can also drift you away, which may challenge your remembrance of the last spot. However, keeping the drinking spot facing towards you can give you a clue on where to drink from.

Drinking from the same spot improves not only the appearance of your wine but also invokes the aromas directing them to your nose. If you sip from different parts of the rim, the excess shaking and contact can individually taint the scent of the wine. Since the taste and smell are intimately connected, this could degrade the quality of your wine.

Regardless of whether your mouth is oily or not, your lips, just like fingers leave a print on the glass. Sipping from the same spot helps reduce the mess and makes your glass look cleaner.

Don’t fill the glass to the brim

The general rule regarding wine is that you should keep the glass half full when taking white wine and one-third full when taking red wine. Additionally, if you are taking sparkling wine or champagne using a champagne flute, the glass should only be filled up to three quarters. Therefore, there is not any one time you are supposed to fill a glass. There are reasons behind this rule with regards to the wine experience. One critical reason is minimizing accidental spills. While wine is regarded as a first drink, its serving glasses have higher chances of falling, breaking, and spilling its contents.

A full glass can get heavy, and the long thin stem may not be steady to hold, and you only end up supporting the glass with the bowl, consequently warming the glass and interfering with the temperature. A full glass of wine also loses its aroma quickly as most of the wine is exposed to the air. And the question is simple, would you rather lose a full glass or a third glass of your favorite wine?

Look at your glass as you drink

When sipping your wine, interact and concentrate on it. Look directly inside the glass and listen to what it is communicating. Looking at someone else while sipping wine is considered impolite. When making a toast, its crucial to maintain eye contact and lock eyes with whomever you’re clicking glasses with.

About the Author

Although not having any formal training in wine, Tim has developed an irrefutable love wine and interest in anything related to it ever since he was a little kid. Coming from a family of wine lovers, it was from a young age that he got exposed to wine and the culture that goes with it and has been addicted ever since. Having traveled to dozens of wine regions across the world including those in France, Italy, California, Australia, and South Africa and tasted a large selection of their wines, it is with great joy that he hopes to share those experiences here and take you along on the journey.

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