stem or bowl?

Wine Etiquette: How to hold a wine glass

Do we have a clash between business and wine etiquette? Does one sacrifice the wine or your host’s carpet?

How to hold a wine glass
You are at a party and the hosts hands you a wine glass. How should you hold it?

It’s a simple question, yet the answers are writhe with controversy.

In the distant past, I held my wine glass gently cradling the bowl. It was a practical choice. My palm’s full contact with the widest part of the glass that also shouldered the bulk of the weight of a full glass gave me a sense of security as I walk around a crowded room.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I received a comment on a Stark Insider wine video episode shot at Bent Creek Winery in Livermore that I revisited the manner in which I held a wine glass. The commenter had politely pointed out my technique was simply wrong. A true connoisseur of fine wine would know that one should hold a glass delicately by the stem so that the warmth from one’s hand did not change the ideal drinking temperature of the wine.

There seems to be general consensus on this method of holding a wine glass.

Case closed. Or is it?

Recently, while flipping through an issue of Bloomberg Businessweek there was an article profiling etiquette in business and the lack of it in employees of the web 2.0 and millennial generation entitled, “Etiquette School for Dummies” (pg 89, October 18, 2010). In a table there is a summary of some tips on etiquette. One of the tips is on how to hold a wine glass. The author, Teddy Wayne, recommends holding the glass by the bowl: “When drinking wine, hold the glass by the bowl, not the stem, to reduce the possibility of spillage.”

Now if it was in a less reputable rag I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. However, I was surprised this method was suggested by Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. The rationale given was that holding a glass in such a manner reduces the chances of an accident causing red wine to spill on your host’s carpet. A reasonable consideration.

Do we have a clash between business and wine etiquette? Does one sacrifice the wine or the carpet?

I think the occasion should dictate.

In a crowded party, walking across fine ivory wool carpets a firm grip on the bowl of your wine glass is advisable. At a vertical tasting of some of Napa’s finest red wines, a delicate pinch of the stem may signal a nod of respect to the wine being served.

For whites and champagne, holding by the stem wins everytime.

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Loni Stark
Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, adventure travel seeker and passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's also the host of Stark Insider TV. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. As director, product and industry marketing at Adobe, Loni oversees global product positioning, and go-to-market strategy and operations for Adobe’s web experience management business. Loni's story...
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  • Chris G

    As is often the case for For Dummies articles, the author suggestions your hand be in contact with the bowl of the glass is in fact, a dummy. Just because something becomes accepted in society by “people in the know” does not mean it is correct.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=765149533 Loni Kao Stark

      Chris G. True, just because something becomes convention doesn’t make it correct. However, I do think it is a valid point that holding a wine glass by the bowl is more stable than by the stem. Since wine is best consumed with friends and family, social considerations are warranted.

  • Roger

    Until Americans relax about wine, younger potential consumers will stick to their beer and spirits.
    It’s why US per capita consumption is around 10 litres, the rest of the western world at 20.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=765149533 Loni Kao Stark

      Roger, Sounds like we have some catching up to do! One thing that occurred to me while writing this post was that in Europe wine is also consumed in tumblers, sans stem.

  • Pingback: http://www.starkinsider.com/2010/10/wine « DH Wine Compliance Blog

  • http://twitter.com/Sedimentblog Sediment blog

    We English know a thing or two about etiquette…

    1) As a matter of principle, at a function where wine is being topped up by staff, hold the glass by the stem so that they can see how much is in your glass.

    2) As a matter of taste, if the wine is white, you would not wish to warm it by cradling the bowl in your hand. Again, hold it bny the stem.

    3) To avoid spillage, the best advice is… don’t get drunk!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=765149533 Loni Kao Stark

      LOL – Good rules to live by, esp #3.

  • Didi

    On my website NewportManners.com, I am often asked these same questions. In my opinion, at a cocktail party, such as you described, you would hold your glass of red wine glass by cupping the bowl in your up-facing palm, fingers placed gently on the belly of the bowl to stabilize it in the event that someone inadvertently brushes your arm or knocks into you. You would hold a glass of white wine by the stem to keep it at 55 degrees as long as you can, if you don’t like your white wine warm. Didi Lorillard

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=765149533 Loni Kao Stark

      Thanks Didi – good etiquette advice. Don’t like warm Rieslings or Chardonnay.

  • PnP goes global

    interesting article! here in Europe the general etiquette is to always hold your wine glass by the stem. Clutching onto the bulb of the glass is sometimes frowned down upon, as would be chewing with your mouth wide open!