If you’ve ever felt like outsider Tom Branson or Matthew Crawley (picking up the wrong fork or wearing the wrong suit) when they first arrived to dine at “Downton Abbey” with the Granthams, you’ll appreciate this primer on wine glasses, also known as stemware. There are several different kinds of wine glasses, each designed to bring out the distinct aroma and flavor in the type of wine you choose.
I went straight to the source to get the correct wine glass etiquette: Peggy Post, great-granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, author of the original 1922, “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” now updated in its 18th edition. If you don’t have every type of wine glass imaginable, don’t sweat it. Post says, “Don’t stress out over it. Having the correct wine glasses for the wine you’re serving is a nice touch, but the most important thing is to be a fresh, confident, and welcoming host to your guests.”
She says if you don’t entertain much and are not much of wine drinker you might invest in a beautiful set of all-purpose goblets, a stemmed glass you can use for serving water or any wine. But if you or those you are serving appreciate the finer aspects of wine, learn how to choose the correct wine glass for each type of wine.
For serving white wine: The white wine glass is usually taller in shape and more tapered at the mouth than a red wine glass. That’s to help keep white wine cool, since it is served chilled. The correct way to hold the white wine glass is with your fingers and thumb, by the stem, to avoid warming the bowl with your hand, says Post. What about your pinky? “Never stick your pinky up. That habit originated with trying to hold small china tea cups without putting your fingers through the handles and has nothing to do with wine…or etiquette,” she explained.
For serving red wine: Basic red wine glasses usually have a wider bowl than white wine glasses to allow a Bordeaux or Cabernet contact to the air, “to breathe,” which releases its flavor and aroma, especially when you swish it around the bowl. Since red wine is served at room temperature, feel free to hold a red wine glass by the stem or by the bowl. A Burgundy wine glass has an even larger, balloon-shaped bowl for serving denser, fruity red wines such as a Burgundy or Pinot Noir. The larger bowl allows your nose in to smell the wine and directs it to different taste buds, such as those at the tip of the tongue, so you taste the full flavor of the wine. Post says you can even cup the larger Burgundy glass in your hand to hold it comfortably.
For serving bubbly: The Champagne flute is a tall, tapered, elegant glass designed to keep your bubbles bubbly longer, as well as to show them off during fun, festive events. A flute is also a perfect choice for serving sparkling wines such as an Asti or even a semi-sparkling Moscato and of course, bubbly drinks such as mimosas.
Peggy Post’s best wine etiquette tip? Blot your mouth with your napkin before you drink from the wine glass to avoid unsightly grease or lipstick stains on the rim of your glass. Cheers!