With Stem or Without: How to Properly Hold a Wine Glass

Did you know? Holding a wine glass correctly offers many benefits for wine lovers. Read on to discover all there is to know about how to hold a wine glass.

With Stem or Without: How to Properly Hold a Wine Glass

New lovers of all things wine – did you know that holding your glassware correctly will enhance your drinking experience? Seasoned wine enthusiasts can confirm this. Discover all there is to know about holding a wine glass the proper way below.

Learning how to hold a wine glass properly is an essential part of wine etiquette.

Wine protocol can often feel overwhelming to newcomers. Since wine has been around for a very long time, there’s a multitude of dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Thankfully, there’s no way to overcomplicate how to hold a wine glass. Your form is either right or wrong, which leaves no room for confusion. After all, wine glass anatomy is rather limited. Ultimately, you can only grip this vessel by the rim, bowl, stem or base.

With the expert guidance of our winemaker Alvi van der Merwe and his Cape wine master wife Junel, you’ll be confidently cradling your wine glass by the next tasting.


How to Hold a Wine Glass 101

Steeped in tradition, the world of wine holds long-held conventions that dictate how to open a wine bottle, as well as pour wine and taste it. Not to mention how to store wine at home. But it’s about more than simply exuding an air of confidence as you enjoy a glass. Every bit of protocol you adhere to will elevate your wine-drinking experience.

Concerning the correct way to hold a wine glass? Well, it all depends on whether it has – or lacks – a stem.


Stemmed Wine Glasses

When holding a traditional wine glass, you want to do so by its stem. There are several appropriate methods to consider. Which one you pick simply depends on what you find most comfortable.

There are, indeed, correct and incorrect ways to hold a stemmed wine glass.


“It’s not something that only wine snobs do – holding a wine glass by its stem is very natural.” – Junel van der Merwe


  • Pinch the stem directly above the glass’ base using your forefinger and thumb. Your remaining fingers will act as support from the bottom.
  • Grasp the stem around the upper-middle section with your thumb and forefinger. This will leave your hand in a slightly curled-up position while facing the base, yet not touching it.
  • Hold the stem between your thumb and forefinger. Have your middle finger join in, should you need extra support. Your pinkie and ring finger will rest atop the base, not touching the stem.
  • Lever the stem’s base with your thumb while your fore- and middle fingers remain clasped below for support. Curl your other digits into your palm for added stability. Note that this technique may prove challenging for beginners.

Apart from looking sophisticated, there are various reasons for holding your glassware in one such manner. More on this in a bit, but first: on to how to hold a wine glass sans stem.


Stemless Wine Glasses

The proper way to hold a stemless wine glass is equally simple. Just grip it as close to the base as possible, using your thumb, fore- and middle fingers. For increased stability, tuck your ring and pinkie fingers beneath its base. You’ll want to steer clear of the top and mid sections of the bowl.

Holding a stemless wine glass properly is simple.


Why the Way You Hold a Wine Glass Matters

As alluded to before, other than being socially acceptable and providing an unobstructed view of your wine’s colouring, holding a wine glass the right way has numerous practical benefits.


It Keeps Your Wine Cool

Firstly, it’s about temperature regulation. Lukewarm white wine, anyone? The further your hand remains from the bowl, the longer your wine will stay at optimal drinking temperature, maximising its aromas and flavour. When using stemless glassware, avoid holding your glass for too long. Instead, place it on a nearby surface and only lift it when ready to take a sip.


It Makes Swirling Easier

Secondly, holding your glass by its stem reduces the chances of spilling wine while swirling the liquid. When cradling a stemmed glass by the bowl, people tend to exaggerate their movements, increasing the likelihood of spills. As fine glassware is particularly delicate, gripping it by the bowl too firmly may also cause it to shatter.


Quick Tip: Prevent spillage while swirling by placing your wine glass on a smooth surface and gently moving it around in circles.


It Keeps Your Glassware Clean

Finally, gripping a wine glass by the stem will keep its bowl spotless. Finger and hand marks could hinder you from admiring the glass’s contents. For this reason, aim to sip from the same spot continuously, as this will keep your wine glass smudge-free for longer. Doing this will also prevent the wine’s flavour and aroma from becoming tainted.

Holding a wine glass by its stem keeps the bowl clean.


The Origins of the Wine Glass and Its Stem

Here are a couple of fun facts about the wine glass: the traditional design, featuring a bowl, stem and base, likely originated around the year 1400 in Venice, Italy. At the time, the Floating City was famed for its masterful glassblowers.

However, wine glasses didn’t always have stems. It’s thought the inspiration for adding these handy appendages to fine glassware came from the church, where metal goblets boasted this feature for ages. These chalices had stems for a very particular reason. During communion, it allowed priests to lift them up high for all the congregation to see.


How to Hold a Wine Glass – An Overview

To recap: always hold wine served in traditional glassware by the stem. Stemless glasses, on the other hand, must be held as close to the base as possible.

Our Alvi’s Drift YouTube channel is filled with informative content, such as our Taste What’s Possible Wine Education Series. Here you will find renowned local wine expert and Alvi’s Drift brand ambassador Junel van der Merwe demonstrating how to hold a wine glass and much more.

Love what you see? Join our Alvi’s Drift Wine Club to enjoy exclusive benefits, including members-only video content, discounts and invites to special wine events.


Shop Fine Alvi’s Drift Wines Online

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