t’s Friday night, it’s been a long week and you’re headed for a couple of drinks with some fellow wine lovers. As you settle into your seats, the wine is poured, and amid the pleasant buzz of conversation, you lean forward to pick up your glass. Suddenly, you’re aware that the wine bar has gone quiet, and your friends are staring at you in horror. Following their gaze to your glass, you realise you’ve committed the ultimate faux-pas - you’re holding it by the bottom, or the bowl. But is this really such a blunder? Read on to find out…
How to hold a wine glass
The handbook on how to hold a wine glass has been the cause for many a debate over the years, with the ‘proper’ way described as holding the glass by the stem, between your thumb, forefinger and middle fingers. This is claimed to be the best method of keeping the temperature of the wine at the right level. However, this is making the assumption that the person pouring has poured the wine at the perfect temperature required for that particular type of wine.
Our resident wine expert and certified Master of Wine (one of only 400 in the world) Barry J. Dick says: “Holding a wine glass by its stem is just one of the many urban myths surrounding correct wine etiquette. Indeed there are many times when, realise it or not, it’s probably not the right thing to do.”
For example, white wine should be served cold - but not as cold as the fridge. So bowl grabbing, or holding your wine by the bottom of the glass, will help to warm it to the correct temperature.
So the next time someone corrects you and says: “You should be holding your glass by the stem”, reply: “No actually, it was served at the wrong temperature, so I’m making it right.”
How to hold a red wine glass
Red wine is traditionally poured at a warmer temperature than white wine, and thus many people naturally hold their glass of red by the bowl. Indeed, if you’ve just retrieved a nice bottle of red from the garage or cellar, a touch of bowl grabbing will quickly bring it up to the perfect drinkable temperature.
But this leads us to a second myth surrounding wine - that putting red wine in the fridge to chill is another disgrace for the drinker. “Not so”, says Barry, “You can certainly store red wine in the fridge; especially in the warmer summer months to help bring out its strength and flavour”.
How to hold a champagne glass
Typically more delicate than wine glasses, many tend to think that champagne glasses have a separate set of rules when it comes to how to hold them. From fancy flutes to classy coupes, it can be a veritable minefield for the inexperienced drinker worrying about making a social slip-up. However, vessel veterans like Barry advise that similarly to white wine, bowl grabbing can bring chilled champagne to the correct temperature, without spoiling any of the bubbles.
That’s the technical reasons for the need to hold your glass by the stem or the bowl. But in reality, enjoying wine is all about freedom of expression and personal preference: whether that’s sitting up straight holding the stem of the glass, or relaxing into an armchair and cradling it by the bowl. This is why we’ve made bowl grabbing our namesake - we want everyone to drink wine in the way they feel most comfortable, holding the glass whichever way they want - after all, it’s not the hand holding the glass, but what’s inside it that counts. However, to get the best experience from our wine, we’d advise against holding your glass around the rim and swigging it back like a pint of lager. Some things should be savoured. Sáude!
For more wine knowledge
Although we strongly believe wine should be enjoyed not endlessly discussed, we know that sometimes people want to have just a little but more wine knowledge. That’s why our Master of Wine has written a short eBook on the questions that he gets asked most often. After all, as possibly the most qualified person in the world of wine you can expect people to ask you a question or two - and Barry gets asked the same ones. A lot! And ‘How to hold a wine glass’ is just one of them!
You can find the eBook here.