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What Are Wine Legs and Do They Matter?

You’ve heard wine connoisseurs mention them, but what exactly are wine legs?

 

We’ve all either experienced it firsthand or seen it on television. Someone carefully pours wine, perhaps they swirl it delicately around the glass, examine it, and then they say something along the lines of “Oh, hmmm, yes. Good legs.” 

Also known as the “tears” of a wine or even “cathedral arches,” wine legs are the drops and streaks of wine that slowly descend the sides of a wine glass after it’s been swirled or after someone has taken a sip. 

Scenarios like the one mentioned above, however, seem to imply that it’s particularly good when a wine has “good legs.” So, does that mean more legs imply a higher quality wine? What makes legs good or bad? 

Honestly, there are a lot of myths around wine legs and we’re here to set the record straight. Read on and discover precisely what wine legs are and what they can tell you about a bottle of wine.

 

What Are Wine Legs?

We weren’t exaggerating. Wine legs really are just the tear-shaped drops of wine that slowly fall down the sides of a glass after it’s been swirled or sipped. To get really technical, this happens because of physics. Specifically, something called the Marangoni effect or the Gibbs-Marangoni effect.

The Marangoni effect has to do with fluid surface tension. Essentially, liquids with different surface tensions (like water and alcohol) will always move away from each other. When wine coats the inside of the glass, which happens when it’s swirled or sipped, gravity pulls the fluids back down. However, since alcohol has a higher evaporation point than water and water has a higher surface tension, the Marangoni effect comes into play. The water actually pushes upwards and away from the alcohol leading to wine legs. 

 

Why Do They Matter?

Trick question—they don’t.

Well, more specifically, they don’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of a wine. They do, however, provide information about the alcohol content of a wine When a wine has a higher alcohol content, there will be a greater number of wine droplets. 

The speed with which the droplets descend can also tell you about the sugar content of a wine. The idea is that wines with a high sugar content will have more viscous wine legs, meaning that they’ll move down the sides of the glass more slowly.

There are also some individuals who believe that wine legs can tell us about tannins and acidity, but there isn’t any official evidence to support that.

 

How to See Wine Legs

While wine legs don’t tell you much about the quality of wine, it’s a fun way to test your wine knowledge. To get started, follow these simple steps…

  1. Pour wine into a clear glass and then tilt it until wine coats one of the sides.
  2. Level the glass and examine the legs that form.
  3. Take note of how many legs there are and how quickly/slowly they descend.

That’s it! Do this and then check the label to see if your observations are correct. As you do this on different types of wine, you’ll quickly develop a sense for the alcohol and sugar content in wine.

For example, since our wines are all low-carb and low-sugar, the viscosity of the droplets will all be relatively similar. However, when you compare our Alibea Toscano Rosso (which has an ABV of 11.10%) with something like our Supertuscan Tenuta di Burchino (ABV 13.17%), you’ll notice a greater number of droplets on the latter because of the higher alcohol content.

Enjoy Your Wine—Legs and All!

No matter what you do, just enjoy your wine! Grab a bottle or two for your next friend or family gathering, pour some glasses, and cheers. Follow us for all the latest updates, and don’t forget to tag us in your next SECCO Wine Club adventure!