Wine Myth #65: “Legs” Are Proof of High-Quality Wines

A previous post, Wine Myth #64: The Older the Wine Is the Better It Is. was so popular that we decided to continue to debunk, or prove, other popular wine myths.

When describing how a wine looks or tastes, many people describe the flavor, aroma, balance, body, and legs. Most of those are self-explanatory, but some might not fully understand the concept of wine “legs”. Wine legs can also be referred to as “tears of wine”, but for our purposes let’s just call them legs.

When you are at a wine tasting and someone swirls a glass of wine and stares at the glass, they are likely looking at the legs. That’s how the wine runs down the glass after swirling; more specifically, the legs are the droplets that run down the glass side from the top of where the wine swished. This phenomenon has been named the Marangoni effect. What’s that? At least define it – don’t tease!

Reality: The legs do NOT determine the quality of the wine.

In fact, legs only indicate the alcohol content of the wine. The more alcohol the wine has, the better chance legs will appear. Not to get into specifics, but think of it as a science experiment. As most home wine makers know, wine mainly consists of water and alcohol. Those two major components have different surface tensions and rates of evaporation. Therefore, when wine is swirled in a glass and disturbed from its usual consistency, the two ingredients can form a ring on the drinker’s glass. Keep in mind, however, that to truly see a difference between wines, they would have to be as different as a fortified and table wine.