I often get the question at wine tastings, “What do legs in a wine mean?” Very valid question as some will stare intently at them as they swirl a wine, while others wonder, what are they looking for exactly? So what are legs? “Legs” in a wine glass are the tears that stream down the side of the glass after you swirl it. Some take special notice of these legs – are they fast or slow? Thick or thin? Whatever speed and shape they take, what does it even mean? Well, we can tell you what it DOESN’T mean – the legs of a wine show you nothing of the wine’s quality, and studies have shown they don’t really show much about a wine’s viscosity, either. Legs are created in a glass by a number of different relationships between the liquid and the glass surface and between the water and alcohol components of the wine. The way the legs fall usually has to do with the level of alcohol in the wine and the speed at which it evaporates, which means, in easier terms, that thicker and slower legs can indicate a higher alcohol level. That said, sugar in wine can also lead to slower legs, so a sweet wine may showcases legs that slide down the glass more slowly. So, in short, watching the legs flow down a glass may be pretty, but won’t give you much insight into the wine. You can, however, guesstimate that heaver and thicker legs may equate to higher alcohol and/or a touch more sugar in your wine. Legs are fun to look at, but don’t give you all that much information about a wine.
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