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How to Hold a Wine Glass Like a Pro: Tips and Techniques

Greetings, fellow wine enthusiasts! I’m your friendly neighborhood wine industry expert with over a decade of experience swirling, sniffing, and sipping my way through the world of wine. Today, I’m here to address a topic that might seem simple but can make a world of difference in your wine-tasting journey – how to hold a wine glass.

Picture this: you’re at a swanky wine tasting event, surrounded by an array of wine glasses, each containing liquid poetry waiting to be savored. You pick up your glass, and suddenly, all eyes are on you. Why? Because the way you hold that glass says more about your wine knowledge than a lengthy monologue about terroir.

So, let’s dive into the art of holding a wine glass with the finesse of James Bond ordering a martini, shall we? But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let me tell you why this seemingly trivial matter actually matters.

Why Holding a Wine Glass Matters

You might be wondering, “Why is this guy making such a fuss about how I hold my glass?” Well, I promise I’m not just being a wine snob. There are legitimate reasons why holding a wine glass correctly is crucial.

Temperature Tango: Wine is a delicate creature. Its flavors and aromas can be drastically affected by temperature. When you clutch that bowl of the glass, your body heat transfers to the wine, potentially warming it up too quickly. This can turn your crisp Sauvignon Blanc into a lukewarm disappointment or your voluptuous Cabernet into an overly warm, jammy mess. We want none of that.

Aroma Affair: Ever heard the phrase “90% of taste is smell”? Well, it applies to wine like a charm. The way you hold your glass can either trap or release those beautiful wine aromas. Think of it like a genie in a bottle; you want to let it out to play.

Etiquette and Elegance: Wine isn’t just about the liquid in the glass; it’s an experience. And part of that experience is the way you present yourself. Holding your glass properly isn’t just about functionality; it’s about elegance and etiquette. It’s about saying, “I know my stuff, and I respect this wine.”

Now that we’ve established the importance, let’s dive into the different aspects of holding a wine glass with style and sophistication.

Types of Wine Glasses

Before we get to the ‘how,’ let’s talk about the ‘what.’ Wine glasses aren’t one-size-fits-all. Much like your favorite pair of jeans or that trusty Swiss army knife, there’s a specific glass for every wine situation.

Red, White, and Sparkling: The holy trinity of wine glasses includes those for red, white, and sparkling wines. Red wine glasses tend to have a larger bowl to allow the wine to breathe, white wine glasses are a bit narrower to preserve their crispness, and sparkling wine glasses (flutes) are like the swan of the glass world, designed to showcase those glorious bubbles.

Holding Technique Variations: Here’s where it gets interesting. The way you hold your glass can vary slightly depending on the type of wine you’re indulging in. It’s like changing gears in a sports car; you adjust for maximum performance.

In the world of wine, holding your glass correctly is like having the right key to unlock the wine’s full potential. It’s not about being fussy; it’s about maximizing your enjoyment. So, what’s this basic technique that can elevate your wine game? Let’s find out.

The Basic Wine Glass Holding Technique

Imagine you’re holding the hand of someone you adore – gently, with care, not squeezing the life out of it. That’s precisely how you should hold a wine glass, but with a touch more elegance.

The Stem is Your Friend: The golden rule of wine glass holding is to grip the stem, not the bowl. Why? Well, when you clutch the bowl, you’re essentially warming up the wine, and we’ve already established that wine prefers a different kind of warmth – the kind that comes from swirling, sipping, and savoring.

Step-By-Step: Let’s break it down:

  1. Pinch the Stem: Using your thumb, index, and middle fingers, gently pinch the stem of the wine glass. The stem should rest lightly against your fingers, allowing you to maintain control.
  2. Keep it Low: Hold the glass near the base of the stem, keeping your hand low. This prevents your body heat from directly impacting the wine.
  3. Elegant Posture: Hold your wine glass at a slight angle away from your body. It’s like giving your wine some breathing space, which it genuinely appreciates.

Why Stem, Not Bowl?

Holding the stem not only keeps your wine at the right temperature but also prevents unsightly fingerprints from smudging the glass. Remember, presentation matters in the world of wine.

Now that you’ve got the basic technique down, you might be wondering, “Can I be a little fancy with my grip?” Absolutely! Let’s explore some fine-tuning options.

Fine-Tuning Your Wine Glass Hold

You’ve mastered the basics, but like any art form, there’s always room for refinement. Depending on the wine you’re sipping, you might want to adjust your grip ever so slightly to maximize the experience.

Hand Placement and Angle

Think of your hand as a director, and your wine as the star of the show. The angle at which you hold your glass can influence how much air the wine is exposed to. For young, bold reds, a more open angle can help tame their intensity. For delicate whites, a slightly closed angle preserves their subtlety.

Adapting for Different Wines

Different wines have different personalities, and your grip can accentuate or mellow those traits. For instance, when sipping a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, you might want to grasp the stem a bit closer to the base for stability. On the other hand, a delicate Pinot Noir prefers a lighter touch.

Balance is Key

The key to fine-tuning your grip is finding the sweet spot between stability and elegance. You want to ensure your glass doesn’t take an unexpected tumble while still looking like a seasoned wine connoisseur.

Now that you’re on your way to becoming a wine glass-holding virtuoso, let’s take a moment to explore some common mistakes you should steer clear of. Trust me; you don’t want to be the person who commits these wine sins.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. The Death Grip: Holding the glass like you’re in a wrestling match is a no-no. Your wine is delicate; treat it with care.
  2. Warming the Wine: Remember, body heat and wine don’t mix well. Clutching the bowl like it’s a lifeline will warm your wine faster than a microwave.
  3. Clunky Clinking: When toasting, don’t clang your glass against your neighbor’s like it’s a pub brawl. Gentle, elegant clinks are the way to go.
  4. Oily Prints: Fingerprints all over your wine glass not only look unappealing but also obstruct your view of the wine’s color and clarity.
  5. Ignoring the Wine’s Personality: Different wines have different preferences. One grip does not fit all. Adapt, my friend.

Wine Glass Holding Etiquette

Ah, the world of wine is a realm steeped in tradition and etiquette, much like a Jane Austen novel or a royal tea party. Proper wine glass holding isn’t just about functionality; it’s about respecting the history and culture of wine. Let’s raise our glasses to some wine glass etiquette, shall we?

Toasting with Grace

When it comes to toasting, the goal is not to create a symphony of clinking glasses that could wake the dead. Instead, make gentle, precise contact. It’s like a secret handshake among wine aficionados. A soft “ting” will do just fine.

Setting Your Glass Down

The art of setting your wine glass down is akin to placing a priceless jewel in its velvet box. Never plop it down carelessly. Instead, gently lower it to the table with the stem resting gracefully.

Don’t Overfill

It’s tempting to fill your glass to the brim, but it’s a faux pas. Leave some room for swirling and aerating the wine. A good rule of thumb is to fill it no more than one-third full.

Hold the Label Outward

If you’re attending a wine tasting event or are among fellow wine enthusiasts, it’s a subtle nod of respect to hold your wine glass with the label facing outward. It allows others to see what you’re enjoying without having to ask.

Keep it Clean

Your wine glass is a canvas for the wine’s color and clarity. Keep it clean and free from lipstick or fingerprints. This isn’t a crime scene; it’s a celebration of flavors.

With these etiquette tips in your arsenal, you’ll navigate the world of wine with elegance and sophistication. But here’s a curveball – what if your hands are too cold or too warm when you’re holding your wine glass? Let’s talk temperature.

The Role of Temperature

Picture this: you’re sipping a glass of Chardonnay on a warm summer evening, and your hands are like blocks of ice. Or it’s a chilly winter night, and your hands are toasty warm. Does it matter? You bet it does.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

If your hands are ice-cold, that’s great news for red wine lovers. The cooler temperature of your hands won’t warm the wine as quickly, making it ideal for reds that benefit from a slight chill.

Warm Hands, Cool Mind

Conversely, if your hands feel like they’re on vacation in the Bahamas, be cautious with your grip. Your body heat can warm up white wines or delicate sparkling wines faster than you can say “wine o’clock.”

Adapt and Overcome

The solution here is adaptation. If your hands are warmer than the Sahara, consider holding the glass a bit higher on the stem to minimize contact with the bowl. For cold hands, you can afford to grip a bit lower.

Now, let’s talk about something that will truly elevate your wine experience – maximizing the aromas and flavors.

Maximizing Aroma and Flavor

Wine tasting isn’t just about sipping; it’s a multi-sensory experience. The aroma of wine is like the opening act to the main event. And guess what? The way you hold your glass can enhance this aromatic performance.

Swirling Sensation

Before you even take a sip, give your wine a gentle swirl. The motion releases those captivating aromas. But be careful not to whirlwind it like a cyclone. A calm, graceful swirl is all you need.

The Magic Sniff

Once the aromas are set free, take a moment to indulge your olfactory senses. Gently bring the glass to your nose and take a slow, deliberate sniff. You’ll be amazed at the bouquet that greets you.

Your Grip Matters

Here’s where your grip comes into play. Holding the glass by the stem allows you to have more control over the swirling and sniffing process. You won’t be battling your own body heat while trying to savor the wine’s perfume.

Remember, wine is not just a drink; it’s an experience. And the way you hold your glass can enhance that experience in ways you never imagined.

Wine Glass Holding Variations

So far, we’ve discussed the classic wine glass holding technique. But what about the rebels, the rule-breakers, and those who dare to be different? Are there variations to this elegant tradition? You bet there are!

Stemless Wine Glasses

These trendy glasses have no stem, challenging the conventional wisdom of wine glass holding. While it’s not the classic technique, holding a stemless wine glass by the bowl is perfectly acceptable because, well, there’s no stem! Come check out the Tarrawarra Yarra Valley Winery & Yarra Valley Restaurant.

Oversized Glasses

Some wine enthusiasts swear by oversized glasses that allow for generous swirling and aeration. In this case, you might need to adjust your grip slightly higher on the stem to maintain control.

Alternate Techniques for Special Wines

In certain cases, unique wines call for unique techniques. For instance, fortified wines like sherry are often served in smaller glasses, and you might cradle the bowl a bit more for warmth and intimacy.

Remember, wine is all about enjoyment, and as long as you’re savoring every sip, there’s room for a little creativity in your glass-holding technique.

Wine Glass Holding and Food Pairing

Now that you’ve mastered the art of holding a wine glass, let’s talk about how it can enhance your dining experience. Wine and food pairing is a culinary adventure, and your grip can play a role in this gastronomic journey.

Complementing Flavors

The way you hold your glass can accentuate the flavors of both the wine and the food. For instance, a firmer grip on a red wine glass can enhance the body and richness of a hearty steak, creating a harmonious pairing.

a wine glass

Transitioning between Courses

If you’re enjoying a multi-course meal with wine pairings, your grip can signify a change in gears. A lighter touch on the stem as you transition from a bold red to a delicate white wine signals a shift in flavor profiles.

Sipping with Finesse

Holding your glass with grace at the dinner table is not just about sophistication; it’s about ensuring the wine complements the food and vice versa. It’s like orchestrating a symphony of flavors on your palate.

So, next time you’re at a fine dining establishment or hosting a dinner party, pay attention to your wine glass technique. It’s not just about showing off; it’s about elevating the entire dining experience.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you’ve been schooled in the art of wine glass holding, it’s time to put theory into practice. Like any skill, practice makes perfect. Attend wine-tasting events, explore different glasses, and experiment with your grip.

And remember, it’s not just about impressing others; it’s about enhancing your own wine-tasting journey. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become in holding your wine glass with finesse.

In conclusion, holding a wine glass may seem like a minor detail, but it’s one that can make a significant difference in your wine-tasting experience. From temperature control to aroma enhancement, and even the realm of etiquette, your grip on that glass matters. Learn more about your Alcohol limits here: Alcohol Health.


  • Can I hold a wine glass by the bowl?

    Holding a wine glass by the bowl is generally discouraged, as it can warm the wine and leave unsightly fingerprints. However, for stemless wine glasses, it's perfectly acceptable since there's no stem to hold onto.

  • Is it essential to hold a wine glass by the stem at all times?

    While holding a wine glass by the stem is the preferred method, there are exceptions. Stemless glasses are designed to be held by the bowl. Additionally, some oversized glasses may require a slightly different grip.

  • Are there any exceptions to the traditional wine glass-holding technique?

    Yes, stemless wine glasses and certain unique wine styles may require variations in the holding technique. The key is to adapt your grip to maximize your wine experience.

  • How does the size of the wine glass affect the way I should hold it?

    The size of the wine glass can influence your grip. For larger glasses, you might need to adjust your hand placement for stability. Smaller glasses, like those used for fortified wines, can be cradled slightly differently for a more intimate experience.

  • Should I hold a wine glass differently when tasting different types of wine?

    Absolutely! Different wine types have different characteristics, and your grip can enhance or temper those traits. Experiment with your grip to match the wine you're enjoying.

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We are thrilled to announce that the incredibly talented Yarra Valley winemaker Sarah Fagan will commence as the Tarrawarra Estate Winemaker on Monday 11th September.

Sarah brings twenty years of winemaking experience and a love for our beautiful region from a long and loyal tenure at De Bortoli Yarra Valley, where she joined as a casual vintage worker in 2003 and progressed through the ranks to her most recent role as Senior Winemaker.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey at De Bortoli and I am proud of the wines we have made over my time of working with their vineyards. TarraWarra Estate has always carved its own independent path here in the Yarra Valley and I look forward to continuing this tradition and embracing change and the development of TarraWarra Estate into the future”, says Sarah.

Tarrawarra Estate, was founded by Eva and Marc Besen in 1983 and the family philosophy has always been rooted in respect for excellence, provenance, and sustainability, with the vision to ‘produce wines of great quality and integrity, amidst a location of beauty and welcome.’

Sarah will be responsible for all aspects of Tarrawarra Estate winemaking and winery operations. As an experienced wine judge, with a refined palate and particular appreciation for cool-climate winemaking from regions all over the world, she is perfectly placed to deliver on the philosophy and drive Tarrawarra Estate’s wines to a new level of success and recognition.

Samantha Isherwood, General Manager, says:
“We are absolutely delighted that Sarah has chosen the Tarrawarra Estate role as the opportunity to spread her wings, we welcome her to the production team and look forward to seeing her personal stamp on future Tarrawarra Estate vintages.”