A couple sits down next to me at an elegant wine bar and order a zinfandel and a merlot. The waiter returns with two huge balloon Riedel glasses. The women reaches out with long, painted and manicured fingernails and grabs the entire bowl of the gigantic glass with her small hand. Protruding strangely from her fingers is the long and untouched stem, which sticking out in this fashion threatens the chin of her companion. After a few sips the once glistening glass is now covered with fingerprints that, combined with the lipstick marks on the lip, make the elegant glass dirty and dingy.
What is this phenomenon? In this era of glasses the size of decanters why do so many people still insist on grabbing the entire glass and ignoring the stem? This is like carrying your suitcase in your arms instead of using the handle. It seems so clear that the stem is connected to a wine glass so you can hold it, it seems very odd that so many people still insist on grabbing the bowl with their entire hand. With the size of todays glassware you need a big hand to successfully hold the entire bowl with comfort.
There are reasons for the stem on a glass besides the elegant look. By handling only the stem the glassware remains sparking clean so that you can enjoy the appearance of the wine and using the stem keeps the heat of your hands away from the wine.
I know this fits into the unimportant pet-peeve category, but no one seems to be able to explain this behavior. Perhaps Riedel "O" glasses will take over the market.