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Wine Etiquette
The proper way to enjoy your wine

This is another piece I've borrowed from Doug Badenoch's newsletter for his store, the Wine Gallery, in Bozeman, Montana. Doug lived in Indianapolis and interned with us for a few months before he opened his own store in Montana eleven years ago.


What with private tastings and teaching the Wine Smarts Class this last week, I have come across a practice that is akin to harvesting earwax in public. OK, so it's not the end of the worlds but one of the first lessons we cover in wine tasting is to hold the wineglass by the stem, not the bowl. Holding the wine glass by the bowl is a tough habit to break but it really does make sense to hold fine crystal by the stem. There are three big reasons for that:

1) Holding the bowl in your hand heats the wine and can affect the flavors

2) You can't really swirl the wine properly by holding the bowl, and

3) A clear wine glass gummed up by smudges and fingerprints is not only unsightly, it prevents a clear evaluation of the color and clarity of the wine. It is number 3 that gets my dander up most.

Noted Atlanta area wine critic and gourmand, Everett Babcock, is much more irritated than I am at the practice of holding a wine glass like a cognac snifter. He is even known to publicly chastise his close relatives who lapse into bowl holding louts. Babcock shares my revulsion at seeing a goobered up Riedel glass. When he sees a wine glass that looks like a Subaru window full of Labrador snot he is much quicker than I am to instruct the proper grip. He is also very adamant about how a proper grip effects the ability to clink glasses for a toast. ("Always clink on the fat part; never on the rim!!")

I realize it is easier to reach for a wine glass and hold it by the bowl. It seems steadier which is the other edge of the sword when it comes to folks who are uncomfortable swirling wine. However, with just a little practice and a conscious effort to change the old habit, anyone can hold a glass properly. To review, the proper way is to pinch the stem. (If you want to look affected and snooty, hold it by the base.) The most comfortable grip for me is three fingers crooking the stem and the pinky under the base. This makes for easy swirling and a clean looking glass. Until one gets more comfortable with the new grip, remember to fill the glass 1/3 or less before you start. Eventually, a comfort level will sink in and the habit of holding a wine glass properly will come naturally. Until then, feel free to gasp in horror when you see someone on TV or in the movies holding a wine glass by the bowl.

Here is the exchange Doug and I had when I asked to use the piece...

I've gotta visit Montana! Guilty... I love the part about the Lab! Can I steal this piece? Doug P

Doug-- When I thought about it, "Schnauzer snot" is much more alliterative. It's just that in Montana everyone drives a Subaru with a Lab in the back. They also have a girl named Madison, a boy named Bridger and the dog's name is Jake. Steal away!! Doug B