Mailbag Monday: Wine Legs?

Dear Alleigh:
What does it mean when a wine has legs?

Hi…and thanks for your email!  Variations of this question show up a lot in the blog’s Google Analytics.  However, while readers regularly seem to find A Glass After Work by Googling about wine legs, no one has actually sent me the question before.  So, I’m glad you asked!

Red wine with legsFirst, for those of you that don’t know, wine legs are the streaks of wine that drip down the walls of the glass, and, obviously, they occur after swirling your wine or after you take a sip because that’s when the wine hits the walls of the glass for only a second.  Basically, the wine legs form because alcohol evaporates faster than water, so as the alcohol in the wine evaporates, the water concentration of the wine increases.  This causes a change in surface tension, which causes the wine to pull together into droplets.  Gravity then pulls the droplets down, leaving a streak of wine on the sides of the glass.

The bigger question, and the one you really asked, is what the wine legs tell you about the wine.  The answer is, not too much. Sure, the more alcohol the wine has, the more likely the wine is to have more visible legs.  The problem is, knowing that the alcohol is high doesn’t give too much information because as long as the wine is balanced, the alcohol shouldn’t be overpowering.   And, even more importantly, just because a wine doesn’t have “big dripping legs” or you don’t notice the legs at all, it doesn’t mean that the wine doesn’t have any alcohol or even that the wine is low in alcohol.  It just has to do with how the amount of alcohol versus the amount of water in the wine.

For me, looking at the legs is all part of the wine tasting puzzle for me, particularly when a wine has big legs.  I use them to help inform myself about the wine, since there are some guesses I can make by looking at its legs, but since the information isn’t a foolproof, it’s just one of the many things that I observe during a tasting.

I hope that helps.  Cheers!
-Alleigh

P.S.  A Glass After Work is the featured Foodista Blog of the Day today (Monday, February 4, 2013).  Thank you Foodista for the feature and a big warm welcome to all the new readers who came to A Glass After Work through Foodista!  Please grab a glass of wine, take a look around, and make yourselves comfortable.  I definitely hope you’ll stick around!

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