So, now that clarity and color have been explored, it’s time to start swirling! Swirling is important because it helps aerate the wine, which means that more oxygen touches it. This will be particularly important when we get to smelling and tasting, although, for the purpose of examining the wine’s legs, swirling is done to get wine on the walls of the glass.
The first thing to remember before you swirl is that you don’t want to do this with a full glass of wine—your glass should be about 1/3 full. Keep your glass upright, and hold it by the stem. Then, carefully move your wrist in a circular motion. I go counter-clockwise, but everyone is different. If you’re having trouble, put your glass down on the table, hold the glass where the stem and base meet, and move your wrist in a circular motion. You’re swirling!
By swirling the wine, you should have gotten some on the sides of the glass. Hold the glass at eye level and look to see if there is wine streaking down. It may take a moment or two for the streaks to appear, and not all wine has them, but many have at least some faint ones. These streaks are commonly referred to as “legs” or “tears.”
Because alcohol evaporates faster than water, legs form as the alcohol evaporates and the water concentration of the wine increases. The change in surface tension that happens due to the evaporation then causes the wine to pull together into droplets. Gravity then causes the drops to steak down the sides of the glass. The technical term for this occurrence is the Marangoni Effect.
Now that you identified whether or not the wine has legs, what do you know about the wine? Admittedly, there is some debate as to whether the legs can tell you anything, but in general, the more alcohol the wine has, the more visible the legs. Is it a good thing if your wine is “dripping with legs?” What if you don’t see any legs at all? I don’t think either scenario is good or bad. Instead, making observations about a wine’s legs is examining the clues the wine gives about its character. For me, it’s like fitting together the pieces of puzzle, and my observations about a wine’s legs are is the last piece to put into place before moving on to the really fun part—the smelling and tasting.
**Hint** If you’ve never done looked for legs before, I recommend trying it with a red wine firs because it will be easier. That’s not to say white wine doesn’t have legs, as it definitely does, but for your first attempt, it might be easier to work with something that has a little more color.