Ask Sid: Does putting your fingers around the bowl of the wine glass actually warm the wine up?

September 27th, 2017
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Does putting your fingers around the bowl of the wine glass actually warm the wine up?

Question: Does putting your fingers around the bowl of a wine glass actually help warm the contents?

Answer: Long time Montreal IWFS member Ted Pearson raised this interesting question and experimented for an answer. He took two identical glasses and poured an identical amount of cold wine into each. The temperature in each glass on a food thermometer showed 46.9 F. Ted grasped one glass by the bowl that still had the thermometer in it with his thumb and the tips of three fingers and counted to 1 minute and 42 seconds. The temperature in that glass had gone up to 47.5 F and he immediately moved the thermometer to the other glass and the temperature was the same at 47.5 F. Ted did not expect that result and concludes that the wine in the glass was affected only by the ambient temperature and not by holding it with his fingers. He believes the thickness of the wine glass and the temperature of each person’s fingers may have some impact on a different result but we know glass is a poor conductor of heat. Interesting result as I use this technique to warm the contents of my wine glass. Note the normal human body temperature is usually around an average of 98.6 F (or 37 C) but that is taken as an oral temperature through the mouth and not by the fingers which would be lower (though some people including myself have much warmer hands than others). The ambient room temperature could be an influence as well with a warmer room likely leading to this result in the short term while in a cooler room the cupped glass might result in a higher temperature. As well a longer test period may help raise the temperature of the held glass. What are your experiences?

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Does putting your fingers around the bowl of the wine glass actually warm the wine up?

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September 27th, 2017

2 Responses

  1. You covered a number of things that could have affected the surprising outcome, but here are some more. How long did he hold the thermometer in the second glass before taking the reading that showed the same temperature as the “bowl-held glass”? It should have taken at least the same amount of time to cool back down to the original temperature as it took to increase to 47.5F.

    Also, I’m not sure I could tell the difference in a change of 6/10th of one degree of any wine I was drinking. When I pour a glass out of a bottle that has been in my refrigerator for several hours, I takes quite a few minutes with both hands wrapped around the glass bowl before the wine warms up enough for my taste. However, my refrigerator runs at about 38F, and 48F to 50F is my preferred temperature. That is an 8 to 10 to 12 degree change. Additionally, after the wine reaches my preferred temperature, I don’t normally hold the glass unless/until I want to swirl and/or take a sniff or taste of it.

    Bottom line is I think the experiment needs more testing to consider how long it takes for each one degree temperature of change. Who knows, it may take longer than it takes to drink the entire glass than for the temperature to change enough for the average person to tell the difference, making the whole issue mute.

  2. I held the glass for 1 minute 42 seconds. I transferred the thermometer to the “control” glass and left it there for 15 seconds, long enough for the thermometer to react.. Why would the wine in the control glass cool down? The wine in both glasses would warm, or not due to ambient temperatures (or by the hands/fingers). My cellar cabinets run at 57F. However, once the bottle is opened, I keep it in the fridge which is cooler and runs at 46.5F or so.

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