I am sure that all wine drinkers have at one time or another held their wine glass up and looked at the wine streaks trickling down the sides of the glass wondering if they have any meaning. Or, at the very least, they have had a comment about them. Those streaks of wine are known as wine legs.
Over the years I have been asked a number of times about wine legs. What are they and what does the term mean? One of the questions asked the most is “do wine legs indicate the quality of a wine?” Or “do more legs mean it is a better wine?” The answer is (sorry to say) wine legs have nothing at all to do with the quality of a wine. Taking the time to count the number of legs isn’t going to tell you if the wine is any better than the next. At some early wine tastings I actually had people count the number of legs and tell me the number.
The facts: the legs in a wine glass come from the alcohol or sugar content in the wine. The higher the alcohol content of the wine, the more legs you’ll see on the side of the glass. The lower the alcohol content, the less legs you’ll see.
To figure out what kind of legs or how many your wine has, either tip your glass, letting the wine run towards the top of the glass, or swirl the glass letting the wine rise in the glass. But don’t spill it as I once did. In either case hold the glass upright, looking for the droplets or streaks of liquid running down the inside of the glass. These are actually water droplets caused by the evaporation of the alcohol in the wine. It is thought that the more legs on the side of the glass, the higher the alcohol content of a wine. You should see more streaks with wines of higher alcohol content.
Other Names for Wine Legs:
- Church Windows
- Tears of Wine
Although wine legs don’t indicate the quality of a wine, in my judgment they may have an impact on how the wine tastes or finishes. The higher the alcohol contents of the wine, the greater the warming/burning or peppery sensation in the back of your throat when you swallow the wine. Also higher alcohol wines tend to be fuller-bodied wines and are often meatier. See my blog on “Meaty Red Wines.”
I have never known anyone who could guess the alcohol content of a wine by looking at the number of legs on the glass. It is much easier to read the actual alcohol percentage on the label.
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Until next week,