Why do actors always hold their wineglasses by the bowl rather than the stem?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is there an (un)written Hollywood rule that, just as every shot of Paris must contain a view of the Eiffel Tower, actors must hold their wineglasses by the bowl rather than the stem?

Ed S., New Westminster, B.C., Canada

Dear Ed,

I confess I’m also puzzled by this phenomenon. As much as I love seeing more and more characters holding a glass of wine on screens both large and small, they are almost always holding the glass by the bowl and not the stem. Most wine lovers do the opposite, which is considered proper etiquette.

It’s a touchy subject. On one hand, I want everyone to enjoy more wine however they feel comfortable. But on the other hand, I feel it’s my responsibility to point out both the etiquette details and the practical aspects of holding the wine “properly”, namely not warming the glass with your hand and avoiding unsightly fingerprints.

As far as what you and I are picking up on the screen, holding the wineglass “improperly” is either an oversight or it’s done on purpose. If it’s simply an oversight, you and I should open a consulting business and go to Hollywood and teach classes and seminars. After all, why go through the trouble of establishing a character as a wine lover, only to have them look like a newbie? Sometimes I think wine is just thought of as a prop, and just like how people in real life rarely hold a gun sideways to shoot or store booze in a beveled glass decanter, these are just tropes of cinema.

There’s also a theory that this is completely intentional. Although wine is more a part of our lives, we don’t want the characters onscreen to appear too precious about it. Holding the wineglass by the bowl is a way to appear like we’re not sticking out our pinky finger when drinking a cup of tea.

—Dr. Vinny

Serving Wine Glassware Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What does it mean if a still white wine like Chardonnay has bubbles?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why some wines have a light carbonation or …

Mar 16, 2023

What's the best way to travel with wine and avoid "bottle shock"?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares advice for safely packing and securing wine for …

Mar 7, 2023

Is it OK for a dinner guest to help themselves to a host’s wine cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares etiquette advice for dinner party hosts and guests.

Feb 27, 2023

When tasting multiple vintages of the same wine, is there a preferred order?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers strategies for wine tastings.

Feb 21, 2023

If a review says "drink by" a few years ago, is the wine bad now?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how to interpret drinking windows and aging …

Feb 13, 2023

What is malolactic fermentation, and why do winemakers use it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the wine science behind the bacterial conversion …

Feb 6, 2023