5 Techniques For Holding a Wine Glass (Stem & Stemless)

Drinking wine can be an elegant and liberating experience at any given time. Whether you’re sitting on your couch watching tv after a long day or out soaking in the sunset at a vineyard with friends.

There are several parts that come into play for the full wine drinking experience, and although they can be quite simple, as someone just beginning to immerse themselves into wine culture they may be a little confusing.

How you hold your glass is a part of the experience that you may have not thought too much about before, but it can change your entire wine drinking experience for the better. So how do you hold a wine glass properly and elegantly?

Here’s a guide on different techniques for holding a wine glass elegantly.

Types of Wine Glasses

Obviously, you can drink wine out of any cup, bottle, or container that you want, but in order to have the full wine experience, using an actual wine glass is important and advised.

There are several types of wine glasses that serve a specific purpose based on the particular wine.

The shape of a wine glass will affect the aroma, how the wine reacts with oxygen, the color, and indirectly the taste.

Champagne, white wine, sparkling, dessert wine, red wine, rosé, and others all have specific glasses to accompany their composition and these glasses become an extension of the wine.

Types of Wine Glasses
Credit: Winefolly

To give an example, let’s look at white vs red wine.

White wine glasses are crafted with a narrow bowl and brim. Whites don’t need to be exposed as they do not react with air.

The acidity in whites should not be tampered with, so using a glass that has a wider bowl isn’t the best option because it will make the white wine lose flavor.

A narrower glass will focus the smell of the wine towards your nostrils. Your sense of smell can affect the way things taste and with white wine having a more delicate aroma, a glass that enhances the smell is needed.

On the other hand, red wine is best served in a glass with a round, wide bowl. Red wines work with oxygen, so when they are greater exposed it will enhance the smell, taste, and color of these wines.

A wider bowl will allow the wine’s aroma to spread in the air and your mouth while drinking.

Overall, knowing the purpose of each glass will only enhance your experience as a wine taker. Wine glasses aren’t made just for the aesthetic, they serve a purpose that can be scientifically backed.

Parts of a Wine Glass

There are four main components of a wine glass; the rim, the bowl, the stem, and the base. Each part serves a unique function for the wine taking experience.

The Rim and The Base

The rim is simply the top of the wine glass. The rim is one of the parts of the glass that works to give the wine either more or less exposure to air. The rim diameter depends on the glass.

For white wines, as explained above, it is best to have less exposure to oxygen therefore the rims of white wine glasses are made smaller to that of red wine. How your mouth will receive the wine is dependent on the rim as well as how you will taste the wine.

As you can see, the rim is a major part of the wine glass because overall it affects the actual tasting bit significantly. One wrong rim and your tasting experience could go to the toilet.

Opposite of the rim is the base at the bottom of the glass. The base’s function is to be the supporting part which holds and stabilizes the entire glass when it is set on a table.

The Stem

The stem is the center of the glass and the most important part when it comes to holding a wine glass.

Not every wine glass has a stem, stemless glasses are usually used for convenience and mainly recommended for red wine rather than white wine. The reason for this is due to the temperature of your hands affecting the temperature of the wine.

Whites are usually enjoyed chilled while red wine can go either way, and can possibly be enhanced by the temperature.

So stems are quite important for drinking white wine and can boil down more as a preference for red wine if you’re drinking at home.

The Bowl

The bowl, also referred to as the goblet, is the central area of the wine glass, where the drink resides. Red wines have a wider bowl while white wines have a more narrow bowl.

Swirling wine is usually done with reds, so the wider bowl helps prevent spilling. The purpose of swirling is to release the aroma of the red wine into the air.

How to Hold a Wine Glass Elegantly

How you hold a wine glass will affect your entire wine taking experience. If you have the proper glass that accompanies the wine of choice, it will not matter if you are not holding the wine glass in the most suitable position.

How you should hold a wine glass is determined by if it is a glass with a stem or without a stem.

Holding a Wine Glass With a Stem

The two main reasons why the stem is meant for holding purposes are for social appearance and temperature.

Holding the glass at the stem will prevent hand prints and smudging on the bowl and the wine will stay cooler longer, because your hands are not in contact with where the wine resides in the glass. There are a few techniques you can use to hold the stem of a wine glass.

1. Hold the stem between your first two fingers and your thumb

Hold the stem between your first two fingers and your thumb 1
Credit: Instagram
Hold the stem between your first two fingers and your thumb 2
Credit: Instagram

The stem should be in the pinched space between your thumb, middle finger, and index finger. When you position your fingers you will want to place them on the lower half of the stem close to the base.

Your remaining two fingers, the ring finger and pinky, should rest naturally on the top of the glass base. Holding it this way will provide stability and keep your fingers away from the bowl.

2. Pinch the stem with your index finger and thumb

Pinch the stem with your index finger and thumb 1
Credit: Instagram
Pinch the stem with your index finger and thumb 2
Credit: Instagram

Your hand should be positioned at the lower half of the stem near the base for this. Take your index finger and wrap it around one side of the stem and then use the tip of your thumb to support the other side of the stem.

Your remaining fingers (middle finger, ring finger, and pinky) should curl into your palm loosely, like a fist. In this position, the three remaining fingers don’t usually touch the glass intentionally.

3. Directly above the base, grab the stem

Directly above the base, grab the stem
Credit: Instagram

Only using your thumb and index finger, pinch the stem of the glass just right above the base. With these two fingers pinching the stem of the glass, they will still also brush against the top of the base.

The bottom of the glass will be supported by extending your middle finger outward along the bottom of the base.

Your remaining two fingers (ring finger and pinky) will naturally rest in this position. These two fingers may follow along your middle finger or press into the palm of your hand as well.

4. Use your thumb to lever the base

Use your thumb to lever the base 1
Credit: Instagram
Use your thumb to lever the base 2
Credit: Instagram

Support the underside of the base with your index finger and middle finger while your thumb stays over the base of the glass. With this technique, the stem of the glass is not actually touched by any of your fingers.

The index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and pinky all should curve into your palm. The base can be supported by the top area of your index finger and middle finger.

This is the least stable holding technique, so if you are going to use it in a social setting it is best to practice at home beforehand.

Holding a Stemless Wine Glass

Stemless wine glasses are a personal preference, but usually used more for red wine than white wine. There’s really only one technique for properly holding a stemless wine glass, which makes it easier.

1. Grab the glass towards the base

Obviously, a stemless glass does not have a stem therefore you have to hold it as you would a regular drinking glass.

With regular drinking glasses, most likely you will hold it at the center naturally, which is not what you want to do with a stemless wine glass.

For the wine glass you will want to grab towards the base. Your thumb and and your four fingers can be wrapped around the glass for stability purposes.

It is preferred though to have only the thumb and and two fingers next to it (index finger and middle finger) on the glass itself, so if possible try to do this.

Your other two fingers (ring finger and pinky) will either curl away from the glass or rest underneath the glass to support it.

Grab the glass towards the base 1
Credit: Instagram
Grab the glass towards the base 2
Credit: Instagram

When you are using a stemless wine glass you will want to be conscious of your efforts to minimize as much contact as possible with the glass.

The body heat that comes from your hand can affect the temperature of the wine causing it to be warmer, so it’s advised to hold the wine glass as little as possible.

If you are in a setting where you can set the glass down, it is best to do so and only pick it up when you are actively sipping the wine.

Since you will have to hold the bowl because there is no stem, fingerprints and smudges are inevitable and that is okay in certain occasions such as by yourself at home or with family and friends.

If you are with other wine enthusiasts, you will want to opt for a wine glass with a stem. Of course, fingerprints and smudges are mainly just obstacles and turn offs for aesthetic purposes as well as social purposes.

If it doesn’t bother you, of course you can still use a stemless glass, but your wine tasting experience will be different.

Check out this video for more tips:

Related Wine Taking Etiquette

How you hold your wine glass will be a major part of your wine taking experience. Having the knowledge of wine holding techniques will set you up for a successful experience.

There are other etiquette tips as well that can aid in your wine taking experience that you may want to know.

Rest Your Wine Glass

You don’t have to continuously hold your wine glass with one hand the entire time, it’s okay to rest it.

If you need to support the glass in between sips of wine and can’t find a table to rest it on, you can use the palm of your non-dominant hand as a place to rest the base of the glass while your dominant hand still holds the glass at the stem.

Sip From the Same Spot

When you sip from the same spot on the glass the appearance and scent of the wine can actually improve. One reason for this is the obvious, it will leave less smudges and prints from your lips, making the glass look cleaner.

Excess contact can mess with the scent of the wine, and since scent and taste are linked to a degree, the taste of your wine will be affected, which is another reason to sip in the same spot.

Keep Your Wine Glass Partially Full

By filing your wine glass only partially, the risk of spilling decreases. When a glass is too full, your hand can weaken since you are only holding it at the stem with a few fingers, which will cause the glass to slip.

For red wine, the glass should be a third of the way full while white wine can be half full. A glass that contains champagne and sparkling wine can be three quarters of the way full.

Read More: Wine Bottle Dimensions: 15 Wine Bottle Sizes And Meanings

Final Words

Drinking wine is an immersive experience. Your sense of smell, sight, taste, and touch all are at play when taking wine.

To ensure you are getting a beneficial experience choosing the right wine glass and holding it properly are both important parts.

How you hold your wine glass whether it has a stem or is stemless will affect the temperature of the wine as well as how you take it.

Holding a wine glass properly can take a bit of practice if you are uncomfortable with it, so take your time to try all glass holding techniques to see what works best for you.

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