To Stem, or Not to Stem?

In my never-ending (often unsuccessful) quest to look cool–which is harder than you might suspect when you’re in NYC surrounded by anorexic models with great hair and self-absorbed hipsters donning the latest in flannel fashion–I was confronted with a predicament regarding my recent dinner party: To stem, or not to stem? (read: to buy new wine glasses so everyone could have a ‘real’ glass, or serve wine in glasses sans stem?)

For a brief 20 minutes, I lapsed into ‘Corked’ Laura Mode–where a stem doesn’t matter and puppies are ugly–and then I remembered that these things are classics for a reason, and there’s also a reason people have been using glasses with stems since the 1600s…even the Redneck Wine Glass has a stem after all.

Luckily, a wealth of knowledge exists on this topic, so if you don’t want to trust me, you don’t have to. Here, my favorite results for the most popular arguments surrounding the battle of the stem.

  1. Without a stem, your hands will warm the wine.

It doesn’t take a master’s degree in rocket science to figure this one out.  Hands are hot. Wine is cold.

My question has always been, just how much will your hand heat up a wine? According to some makers of wine thermometers, just pouring wine into a glass changes the temperature by at least 2 degrees.


According to NuvoVino, the makers of wine thermometers, ambient temperature changes at a rate of 4-5 degress per hour, but when the change is done via conduction (aka when you’re 91 degree hand is holding the glass), the rate is much higher.  So that means, in an hour your wine could go from the ideal 55 degree serving temperature to 67 degrees if you hold the stem, or roughly 72 degrees when you hold the bold of the glass.  Think about going from a 68 degree room to an 88 degree one–you’re basically putting a sweater on your wine.

  1. You can’t properly appreciate a wine’s color in a stemless glass.

Think about it this way–you can’t make shadow puppets with junk in front of your flashlight. The same goes for wine in juice-style glasses; they’re harder to hold up to the light unobstructed to appreciate the clarity and true color of the wine.

  1. Glasses direct the wine to different parts of the tongue, which stemless glassware can’t do the same way.

This one is just wrong, according to wikipedia and, who say the shape of the rim is what determines where wine wanders in the mouth, so stemless and stemmed glassware are created equal.

Despite that, the consensus seems to be: wine glasses with stems are classic for a reason–they’re the best. Though tumblers are  great after a long day  often used across Europe, to really appreciate what’s happening with a wine, a stem is necessary (even if the stemless glasses in the Ikea catalog look cooler).

I bought new ones.

Glassware Uncorked:

Fun Facts: In Switzerland, wine is sometimes drunk from Boccalinos, which are little ceramic mugs. (read: It’s ok to drink wine from coffee cups)

Ok, so not about glassware, but in ancient times Roman men had the liberty to kill their wives if they were found drinking wine.

Laura Loves: Huge rimmed Burgundy glasses,


Sideways stemless for more intimate settings (or just to confuse people),


And these collapsible glasses for camping trips (read: when you really need good wine to forget about the mosquitoes and rock under your tent).



  • January 24, 2012
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