Wine tasting: What exactly are wine legs and what do they mean?

If you have ever been wine tasting, you’ll have probably heard someone mention wine legs.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at this rather strange-sounding phenomenon and discover what it actually tells us about the wine that we’re tasting.

What are wine legs?

Also known as “tears of wine” in France, wine legs are the streaks of wine that form on the side of your wine glass when you swirl the wine.

They happen because the alcohol in the wine on the side of your glass evaporates, leaving behind the liquid, which falls back into your glass.

Note that it’s not possible to create legs inside a closed bottle of wine, as no evaporation can occur in this environment.

Try putting your hand over your glass of wine and see if it makes any difference to the legs.

Interestingly, the same wine can also have different legs, depending on how warm or humid the place is where you are tasting the wine.

If you’re interested in more of the science behind this, take a look at NASA’s website (yes, you read that right – NASA!).

What do wine legs mean about the wine you are tasting?

In all honesty, not a lot. It was once thought (and indeed is still kind of a wine urban myth) that looking at a wine’s legs could tell you something about the quality of the wine you were drinking.

This is simply not true.

What wine legs actually tell us, is how much alcohol there is in the wine. So, if you have lots of “legs” running down the side of your glass of wine when you give it a swirl, it’s a good indication that the wine you are tasting is on the higher side when it comes to alcohol content.

Additionally, the “legs” from a sweeter wine will tend to run more slowly down the side of your glass.

In short, wine legs indicate alcohol content and/or how sweet a wine is likely to taste. Nothing more.

Can I guess the alcohol content of the wine by looking at the legs?

It is possible to take a rough guess at the alcohol content of a wine, by looking at the legs or tears on the side of your wine glass.

Some experts say that they can even tell if a wine’s alcohol content has been marked incorrectly on the bottle, by looking at its legs.

Find out more about wine tasting

If you’re new to the world of wine, why not take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Tasting French Wine?

Plus, you can take a tour with us around the Vineyards of Châteaumeillant, a Loire Valley AOC and one of France’s best-kept secrets.

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