December 29, 2022

Jim Cunningham

Top 3 wine etiquette tips for holiday celebrations

With the holiday season in full force, it is the perfect time to step up your wine knowledge and etiquette, especially with more people beginning to host holiday parties after the pandemic. Gathering at a dinner table, there are a number of surprising wine tips that any wine drinker could find useful.

Here are the top three wine etiquette tips to follow when drinking wine at your next holiday celebration.

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Don’t fill the wine glass all the way to the top

It is recommended to only pour wine one-third of the way up the glass. If wine is filled too close to the top, it becomes difficult for the alcohol to breathe which can reduce the flavors and change the overall experience. It is valuable to allow the wine to settle for a few minutes to release its aromas.

Filling the glass one-third of the way up also helps eliminate your chances of spilling the wine. A breakdown of the measures to follow are to fill red wine glasses one-third of the way up, white wine glasses one-half and sparkling wines by about three-quarters.

Jim Cunningham is the general manager at Merkin Vineyards in Old Town Scottsdale.

Understand the different shapes and sizes of wine glasses

There is a diverse range of wine glasses that have unique shapes, and the purpose of these different sizes is so each type of wine authentically reflects the flavors and aromas of its properties. For example, red wine glasses are larger and have full, round bowls with a bigger opening. This structure allows wine drinkers to fully appreciate the scents of the wine. This design is also said to increase the oxidation rate, which helps in smoothing out the unique flavors.

White wine glasses are known for having a smaller bowl and a taller stem with a more upright design than typical red wine glass. This style preserves the wine’s aromas and maintains the cooler temperatures of the wine.

Sparkling wines are a celebratory wine, especially during the holidays, and it is commonly served in a taller glass to enhance the flavors. These wine glasses also have a narrow, upright bowl to preserve the carbonation of the wine, so the drink does not go flat.

Hold the stem, not the bowl

Another wine hack is to hold the glass from the stem, not the bowl. The number one reason to hold the stem is due to the temperature of our hands. Temperature can greatly alter the aroma and overall taste of a specific wine. Holding wine from the bowl can warm the glass diminishing its complex flavors. Holding the glass by the stem ensures that the wine will stay at a proper temperature for a longer period of time.

This technique makes it easier to swirl your wine, allowing the alcohol to open, releasing the aromas when it encounters air and oxygen. Holding the stem also has its perks as it eliminates your changes of spilling any wine.

Regardless of the type of glass you use or the temperature you serve your wine at, the most important thing is to enjoy it with friends and family. Of course, we are partial to Arizona wine and drinking local.


Author: Jim Cunningham is the general manager at Merkin Vineyards in Old Town Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards & Caduceus Cellars make high elevation wines out of predominantly Italian and Spanish varieties from their 110 acres of estate vines in northern and southern Arizona. Owner and Winemaker, MJ Keenan, along with his wife, Jennifer, and Winemaker Tim White, are producing roughly 8,000 cases a year in their tiny underground concrete facility known as The Bunker. Join Merkin Vineyards for a wine tasting, lunch or dinner. For more information, visit