How To Hold A Wine Glass: The Right Way, The Wrong Way, And Whatever Way You’re Doing It Right Now

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — One of the comic and frustrating things about the wine world is trying to figure out if you’re doing it right or not. Wine lovers know they’re being judged. The wine world is not alone in doing this. Most of the time, no matter what you do, you’re left feeling like you’re doing it wrong. Even something as simple as holding a wine glass.

Since I essentially hold a wine glass while talking for a living, this glass handling question comes up a lot, and it’s fair to say I am pretty familiar with all the different ways our species has developed to get wine into our mouths.

The main question is, should you touch the glass or only handle the glass by the stem? And doesn’t it warm the wine up when you touch the glass and mess up its otherwise perfect temperature?

Finally – and most off-putting of all the ways to hold a wine glass – The Claw, where you clasp the glass firmly by the base and hold on for dear life.

There’s no question, you could warm up a glass of wine by cupping the wine in your hands and conducting your body temperature through the glass. I’m not sure a lot of this happens when you just pick a wine glass up normally, but one thing that does happen is smudging and smearing. If you’re a visually oriented person, this can mess up your whole visual field.

If there is a good technical reason for handling the wine glass only by the stem, this is it, to preserve the clarity of the glass. And if my wife didn’t hold her glass this way, how would I be able to tell our wine glasses apart?

I have to confess, I do tend to fall into The Claw from time to time. Maybe it’s my rheumatism acting up, but I need some variety after an hour or so, and I find myself clamped down like this sometimes, and I apologize to everyone who’s had to witness it.

I know you’re wondering, can that really be how I’m supposed to hold my wine glass? As always, the answer is, try all the different ways and do what works best for you.

Besides, what do you do when you confront a stemless wine glass?

JONATHON ALSOP is founder and executive director of the Boston Wine School and author of Wine Lover’s Devotional

Breaking Wine Down

By Jonathon Alsop

BOSTON, MA — James Brown, the godfather of soul, used to explain himself musically by saying he was “breaking the music down.” He is heard often on record urging his band to break it down, get down, get on down, and sometimes – counterintuitively – to get on up. Get up and get down where exactly, no one knows for sure, but far enough down to where things start to break. Mr. Brown was a beautiful incoherent genius, but that much we can understand.

When you start to break wine down and look at wine really hard, like it’s nothing but a thing, you see that wine on one level clearly is nothing but a thing: a thing composed roughly of 85% water, 13% alcohol, and 2% other. We can take wine into the lab, stick a probe in it, and that’s all. There’s not even room for anything else on a tangible level.

The experience that follows – from my tiny column, to what you smell and taste at home, to the widest ranging international wine trade – is based entirely on this interaction of water, alcohol, and other. Three ingredients, a million different wines, what a planet.

Most of what I’ve been tasting these days has been acid. First of all, the grill is getting its first major work out, and we’re rolling out big BBQ reds that just a few months ago we were calling big wintry reds. It’s another nice dose of tannic acid from those inky red monsters.

As the world around me transitions from winter time foods into summery cuisine, the wines naturally are changing too, and they’re getting white and zippy and crisp – high in citric acid (in citrus fruit) and malic acid (think Granny Smith apples). This trend is perfect for the weather – Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are the lime rickey of the wine world, after all – and our summertime food, especially seafood, is perfect with Sauvignon Blanc’s lemon / lime personality.

2016 Santa Ema Sauvignon Blanc
(Maipo Valley, Chile, $8-10, should be available almost everywhere)
Big ticket wine lovers are going to be so busy looking down their noses at anything in the wine shop “two-for” bin that sadly – for them – they’re going to miss this bargain gem from Chile. This bracing white stakes out the middle between scary acidic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and rich round California Fume Blanc. My favorite thing about this wine – besides Santa Ema who earned her sainthood leading grueling medieval pilgrimages – is the texture. It’s got all the green, zippy, nervous, high-frequency flavors Sauvignon Blanc is famous for, but the texture is special, very soft, smooth, and full. This wine is flexible – it’s a porch pounder during the day but you can get all classy with it by night with any seafood you can imagine.

JONATHON ALSOP is founder and executive director of the Boston Wine School and author of Wine Lover’s Devotional