Ask A Wino – Wine Legs?


james wallNeed some advice on wine? Who better to ask than a true, blue wino?James Wall shares a great tip with us on every Wednesday. Read on to see what his advice is this week and in case you missed James’ previous Q&A’s, just type ‘Wino Wednesday’ in the search bar. Happy Wine’in!

Q: What exactly are ‘legs’ and what do they tell you?

A: Have you ever watched a fellow oenophile swirl their wine, hold it up to the light, then watch carefully as it drips back down into the glass examining every move? While you may have thought they were just showing off, they were actually looking for the legs in the wine glass. No, this does not mean your bottle is going to take off running so you can loosen that grip a little’¦ The way the legs fall usually has to do with a couple different variables including the level of alcohol (ethanol) in the wine and the speed at which it evaporates. This is called the Marangoni effect (try saying that fast five times). As the wine makes its way up the glass, the alcohol evaporates while the thin film of water keeps pushing up the arch. Eventually gravity takes over resulting in the water’s surface tension breaking, and down runs the wine legs. In simpler terms, the more alcohol, the more legs.

But like I said before the “legs test” is one of my pet peeves because it’s never a foolproof indicator and results can often be skewed by a variety of outside variables. A cloudy glass or a few perfectly placed fingerprints can trick any individual into thinking their wine contains high-quality alcohol so, remember to make sure your glass is polished and free of smudges before testing.

Ready to try this chemistry experiment for yourself? The best way to test whether your wine has legs is to pour some wine into a clean traditional glass, hold it up to the light and swirl it around. Pay attention to how it falls into the glass. Does it stick to the sides of the glass? Fall fast or slow? Is it thick or thin? All of these factors can be clues about your wines alcohol level.

So, what did we learn today? Sure, legs are pretty to watch as they stream down the glass but they don’t give much insight to the wines quality. At times, legs can give clues to the wines alcohol level but results can be affected by the wines viscosity or cleanliness of the glass. The only thing you can truly prove when you conjure up wine legs is that you’re not drinking an alcohol-free beverage. Nonetheless, drink up and enjoy!

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