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Wine etiquette suggests holding a glass by the stem or the base of the glass.

THINKSTOCK

My brother-in-law chides me for holding my wineglass by the bowl. Who am I hurting?

Warm hands, warm chardonnay. At the risk of sounding nerdy, a wineglass has a stem for a reason. The design allows you to keep the bowl free from fingerprints – the better to admire your wine’s crystalline clarity – and maintain its serving temperature by keeping your hands away.

When a wine is warmed, the alcohol evaporates at a quicker rate and its flavours become flat and less pleasurable. A proper glass with a stem helps ensure your wine keeps its cool.

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If you happen to be served wine that’s too cool, gently cupping the bowl of the glass is the best way to warm it up.

The modern wineglass form of a bowl, stem and base is believed to have originated in medieval times. The design was likely influenced by the cups used by priests for communion. Over time the shape has been refined and improved. As people came to realize that the stylish shape had a practical as well as aesthetic purpose, stems got longer and thinner to help preserve the temperature of the wine being enjoyed.

Wine etiquette suggests holding a glass by the stem or the base of the glass. This isn’t a precious move to look more elegant – it’s not akin to drinking your tea with your pinky up. The positioning allows one to swirl the glass to release aromas and flavours that enhance the enjoyment of the wine. (Expert tip: If you’re new to swirling wine, practising at home is recommended. You don’t want to splash yourself or innocent bystanders with merlot at your office party.)

If you’re served wine in a tumbler, hold it close to the base to reduce the warming effect.

Stemless wine glasses continue to be controversial with wine geeks, but I’m a fan. I use them at home the majority of the time. There’s less breakage – over the years I’ve clumsily snapped too many stems to count – and they take up less space in the cupboard.

If I’m worried about the wine’s serving temperature, I do smaller pours. I’m content in the knowledge I’m enjoying the glass of wine to my satisfaction.

Rest assured, you’re not hurting anyone. I say you’re free to hold your wine any way that allows you to successfully navigate the glass to your lips without spilling.

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E-mail your wine and spirits questions to The Globe. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Good Taste newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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