Monday, March 15, 2004

How to Hold Your Wine
Wonders will never cease! This blog has had 3 hits in the last week, one via a Google search asking “how to hold a wine glass”. So I guess I should answer the question posed at the end of my last, and long ago, post.

There are three principle parts to a wine glass. The bowl, into which the wine is poured. The foot which allows you to sit the glass on a flat surface, like the top of a table. And the stem which is the thin vertical piece between the bowl and the foot (or base). So, is the Reidel lady holding her glass correctly? Well she, or at least the person who posed her, thinks it is correct. So if you want to look like you know your way around a wine glass, or you just like being pretentious, then go ahead and hold your glass by the foot (or base). The rest of us, who know that holding anything by the foot is not a recipe for success, will use the stem. Why? Well two main reasons. First it is much easier to tilt the glass so that you can see the color of the wine at its edge. Second, it is easier to swirl the wine in the glass to release aroma and bouquet. Holding the glass by the foot also let’s you look at the color and swirl. However most of the effort in holding a glass in this manner comes from the thumb. And while an opposable thumb is one of our greatest attributes, its not really suited to holding a wine glass in this way; you are much more likely to spill wine and if you hold the glass for any length of time you’ll end up with a sore thumb! Holding the glass by the bowl is a no, no! You can’t see the color of the wine well, and its difficult to swirl the wine. Another point against holding the bowl is that the warmth of your hand may heat the wine. I write may because I’m not really sure that this does happen. I guess if you cling to your glass and don’t drink from it maybe the wine will warm, but I’ve never seen any hard numbers on this. I think the reasoning behind bowl holding increasing the temperature of wine is that cognac balloons have no stem because part of the joy in drinking a good cognac is to warm it so that the volatiles are released for you to smell. With no stem you have to hold the bowl, or you could hold the foot; now you are really showing all your skill - just don't do it in public. Trouble with that argument is that the volatile content of cognac is far greater than any wine, and so a small amount of heating works wonders. Hmmm, it might be time to buy a thermometer and test just how much temperature increase you can get from bowl holding!

No, don’t hold a wine glass by the foot, or the bowl. Use the stem. Here’s what to do to get a glass positioned in your hand so that you are holding it by the stem.

Hold your right hand vertically, fingers out-stretched, thumb pointing up; just like you are about to shake someone’s hand. Curl the 4th and 5th fingers into your palm; for convenience we are counting the thumb as the 1st finger. Pick up a glass with your other hand and place the foot between the 3rd and 4th fingers so that its resting on top of your 4th finger. Now wrap your 2nd and 3rd fingers around the stem. If this is done correctly you don’t even need to use your thumb to hold the glass. However, to get the best stability rest your thumb on the foot and the stem of the glass.

Of course you don’t and shouldn’t need to use two hands to pick up a wine glass. But if you use the above description you will know what the correct positioning should be. Then you can pick up the glass by simply using your thumb, forefinger and index finger to grasp the stem, lift and slide the last two fingers under the foot. And there you are, ready to go from touch to sight in your search for the perfect taste of wine.