If you are new to the world of wine, then you are probably starting to notice that there are a lot of different buzzwords used to describe wine and how it tastes. One word that you may have heard being thrown around in wine discussions is “legs,” and you may very well be wondering what that could possibly be in reference to. This is actually a word that causes a little bit of confusion for many wine lovers, and the explanation is actually a little simpler than some people would have you believe. Let’s take a moment to talk about legs, and how they pertain to wine.
When you are given a glass of wine and you give it a little swirl, you will notice that the area above the level of wine in you glass starts to leak down in what resembles tears. The French actually call those streaks “tears of wine,” but in this part of the world they are referred to as legs. Here is where things start to get a little complicated, as there are some people out there who believe that they can tell all sort of things about the wine based on those legs, much like a gypsy may see your fortune in tea leaves.
The reality is that there is no-one out there who can tell you anything about the wine based on those legs, not matter how much they may try to convince you that they can. We all know that wine contains alcohol, and what you are seeing when you see the legs start to appear is the evaporation of said alcohol after it comes into contact with and reacts to the glass. The alcohol evaporates at a much faster rate than water, and that is what is happening when those tell-tale arches appear when the tears start to fall.
What you are seeing here is known in wine circles as the Marangoni effect, and it’s something that happens with all wines that have been swirled in the glass. There are some people who believe that they can tell you the exact alcohol content of the wine by simply examining those legs, and they may even suggest that they can tell you other things about the wine in the glass, too. This is not the case, and as it all really has to do with the alcohol content, you need only examine the label to get the exact amount.
If there is anything to be taken from the appearance of the legs, it’s that the thicker ones might be a sign of a wine that as a higher alcohol content level. Again, this does not mean that you can guess the exact alcohol volume, but it may suggest that you should drink a little less of it if you want to be able to maintain the proper use of your own legs.