What Are The Legs In A Wine Glass?

Legs in wine? Not literally. But perhaps you may have noticed "tears" on the inside of your wine glass. These syrupy-looking marks can provide wine drinkers with some information about the type of wine that has been poured. When tasters swirl the wine around in a glass, not only does this motion help unlock the unique aroma of the wine, but it can also reveal the appearance — or lack thereof — of wine legs.

The presence of these vine-like prints along the inside of a wine glass can give drinkers an indication of the sweetness of the wine and the alcohol content of the blend. You'll notice that if you try to detect wine legs on the inside of an unopened bottle, you won't see any trace of these tears. But once a bottle is opened and poured, you'll notice droplets of wine clinging to the glass as you sip. This phenomenon has even been studied in space.

A visual marker

Wines with higher levels of alcohol will result in a residue left along the inner surface of a glass. These legs are a byproduct of the surface tension created once alcohol begins to evaporate, a scientific occurrence identified as the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect. Wine is made up of ethanol and water, and as wine is moved around inside a glass, the ethanol evaporates, leaving behind sticky trails.

Higher-density wines such as red zinfandels and cabernet sauvignons leave more legs on glasses than wines with lower alcoholic content. As you taste wine from these labels, take note of the droplets around your glass.

Wines that are sweet also can leave behind these liquid prints, as thicker, more viscous wines results in a liquid that moves slower along a glass surface. If you're counting on this visual marker to provide an indication of exactly how sweet the wine is or what kind of quality bottle has been poured, however, that might be difficult to say for sure.

But during your next wine tasting, you can take note of the presence and movement of these leggy tears and understand what they might indicate about the wine you're drinking.