How to hold a wine glass • HowWOW!

How to hold a wine glass properly

Holding a wine glass is not a higher science, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. As a general rule, hold the glass by the stem, not the goblet.

Holding a traditional wine glass

Hold the glass between your thumb, index, and middle finger.

Place your fingers on the bottom half of the stem as you do this. The middle finger should be resting on the stem just above the foot. Only these three fingers come into contact with the stem of the glass. The remaining two fingers should rest naturally on the foot. This is the usual way of holding a wine glass. If you hold it like this, it should have sufficient stability while your hands are off the stem of the glass.

Squeeze the stem lightly with your thumb and forefinger.

Wrap your index finger around one side of the stem and support the other side of the stem with the tip of your thumb. Keep your hand positioned toward the bottom half of the stem. Your remaining three fingers should curl into a loose fist in the palm of your hand. Generally, these fingers don’t touch the base of the glass, but it’s okay if they do.

Grasp the stem just above the foot.

Hold it in place with your thumb and forefinger. Even if you hold the stem with these two fingers, they still lightly touch the top of the foot. Support the glass from below with your middle finger by stretching it outwards along the bottom of the foot. Let the remaining two fingers rest naturally. They can rest in the palm of your hand or follow your middle finger.

Balance with your thumb.

Place your thumb over the base of the glass while supporting the bottom of the base with your index and middle fingers. None of your fingers touch the stem of the glass with this technique. Your index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers should curve slightly into your palm. Support the base of the glass with the tops of your index and middle fingers. Note that this holding style is socially acceptable, but also the least stable. It’s best to practice it alone before using it in company.

Never hold the glass by the goblet.

This is a social taboo, but the reasons are also practical. Both the taste and appearance of the wine can be adversely affected if you hold the glass by the goblet. As you hold the glass by the goblet, the warmth of your hands will cause the wine in the glass to warm up. This problem is most pronounced when sipping white wine or champagne, as these drinks taste best when they are cold. The problem isn’t quite as pronounced with red wine, but even red wine tastes best when it’s slightly cooler than room temperature. Also, holding the glass by the goblet can leave fingerprints, affecting the appearance of the wine glass. Both your fingers and the marks they leave can make exploring the wine’s color or clarity difficult.

Holding a stemless wine glass

Take the glass below.

Because this wine glass doesn’t have a stem, you’ll need to hold it like a regular drinking glass. Take the glass lower down though, not in the middle or on top. You can wrap your thumb and all four fingers around the glass if you need to for stability, but try to only keep your thumb and two fingers on the glass. The other two fingers should bend slightly away from the glass or support the glass from below.

Keep contact to a minimum.

Because the warmth of your hands can raise the temperature of the wine, hold a stemless wine glass briefly and infrequently. Try to only hold the glass when you take a sip from it. If you have somewhere to put it, do so when you’re not drinking. Fingerprints are pretty much inevitable on such a glass. This social faux pas doesn’t usually matter among friends and family, but when you’re hanging out with wine connoisseurs or want to make a good impression on someone new, it’s best to put the stemless glasses away and use the traditional wine glasses instead.

Associated etiquette

Set the glass down if necessary.

If you can’t put the glass down and feel like you need to support it between sips, you can rest the bottom of the glass on the palm of your non-dominant hand while holding the stem with your dominant hand. If you have to put the glass down at the dining table, make sure it goes to the right of your water glass. If you don’t have a water glass, simply place your wine glass in your seat at the top left where the water glass normally stands.

Sip from the same spot.

Drink from one spot out of the glass if possible. This can improve the smell and appearance of your wine. If you drink from too many spots on the rim of the glass, the excessive contact can actually spoil the wine’s scent. Since smell and taste are closely linked, this could also affect the taste of the wine. Also, your lips will leave an imprint on the glass, just like your fingers, even if you’re not wearing lipstick or anything. Sipping from just one spot will also make the top of your glass look cleaner.

Keep the glass partially filled.

As a general rule, you should only have the glass one-third full if you’re drinking red wine, and half-full if you’re drinking white wine. When drinking sparkling wine or champagne from a champagne flute, the glass should be three-quarters full. By only partially filling your glass, you can reduce the risk of accidental spills. Full glasses can get heavy, and since you can only support the glass by the stem and not the belly, your hand can become weak and the weight of the wine can tip the glass over.

Look into the glass while drinking.

As you sip your wine, look into your glass instead of at another person or object. Looking at someone else while drinking from your glass is considered particularly rude. This is true regardless of whether you are in a conversation with someone or not. On the other hand, you should maintain eye contact with someone when making a toast. Look everyone who clinks glasses with you in the eyes. This is polite and superstition says that failure to do so will result in seven years of bad luck.

Tilt the glass as you examine its appearance.

If you want to get a closer look at the wine’s appearance, tilt the glass slightly while holding it up to the light. Use natural light whenever possible. If you can’t get a good view of the color and clarity, aim your lens against a white background for easier viewing.

Swirl the wine gently.

Swirling the wine is socially acceptable as long as you don’t overdo it. The important thing is to gently swirl the wine in the glass in small circular motions while keeping your foot on a flat surface. Hold the stem of the glass while swirling, and swirl for only 10 to 20 seconds at a time. If you have a loose grip, move the glass too vigorously, or swirl it for too long, you run the risk of accidentally spilling the wine.

Hold the glass up to your nose when you sniff.

When smelling a particular wine, tilt the glass slightly and put your nose directly into it. Alternatively, you could hold your nose about an inch from the top of the glass instead of sticking it straight into it. Some people can see more of the scent this way, while others prefer the traditional technique. Both are socially acceptable.

About the Author

Linda Jeasie

Linda Jeasie is a writer and content editor with over a decade of experience covering consumer gadgets and mobile tech. Before going freelance, she got her start as an editor at, a coupon and review website. These days she writes about gaming, life hacks, apps and software, and financial subjects for a variety of publications.