Why Do Wine Glasses Have Stems?

Consider the wine glass.

It has a round base, a two inch stem and an oval vessel on top that contains the liquid. I can’t argue with the round base, since it needs a flat surface to rest on a table. But what’s with the stem?

I’ve heard people say that the stem exists so you can grasp it without touching the part that holds the wine. This way you don’t heat up the beverage with your hands. This makes less sense the more you think about it.

Is the wine really in danger of warming up too much because your fingers touch the glass and transmit a very small bit of body heat? And let’s face it. We all hold it by the part that contains the wine, not by the stem. Next time you go to a wine and cheese party, take a look around and you’ll see what I mean.

Does anyone really hold their wineglass by the stem?

This is why stores are starting to sell wine glasses without stems. The last time I went to IKEA I saw them. Just the oval glass with a flat bottom.

There’s one other argument in favor of stems. The bottom is disconnected (by the stem) from the liquid and its condensation. Therefore it’ll be less likely to leave a glass ring on wooden furniture. I leave it to you to decide whether that makes sense.

But I think the real reason we still put up with stems on wine glasses is because it looks classy. We’ve been raised to believe that wine is drunk by fancy, sophisticated people and they drink the wine, using this elegant glass.

And yet, I remember my first trip to San Francisco where we stayed in a small hotel in the North Beach district. We went to a modest Italian bar and grill. My wife ordered wine wine and they brought it in a short, clear tumbler. No stem. I think the Italians in North Beach saw wine as a common drink that doesn’t need to be dressed up.

I drink a lot of wine and that means I break a lot of wine glasses. When I replace them they won’t have stems. It’s about time.

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