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Do Your Wine Legs Have Body? | The Wine Virgin
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Do Your Wine Legs Have Body?

April 8, 2008

I notice sometimes that there are streaks of wine that flow back down into the glass after I take a sip. I’ve heard of this referred to as wine legs and I wanted to know what makes them. - Heather in Albany, GA

Ahhh… more wine trivia. Wine legs are something that any casual drinker has probably seen at one point or another and this term also goes by the name wine tears as the wonderful French call it. The principal behind why this happens is based upon the Marangoni effect. In simple terms this states that alcohol evaporates faster than water. The alcohol moves up the side of the glass as it evaporates, but since there is a film of water on top, it is pushed up in an arch.

As the ethanol evaporates, gravity takes over and the surface tension that is pulling the wine up is broken and the water runs back down into the glass in rivulets, hence the term. Some think that the more wine legs/wine tears the better the wine. Not necessarily so, to be straight forward, wine legs really won’t tell you that much when judging a wine based on appearance.

Although ethanol, which is the primary type of alcohol in wine is a major contributor to the “body” of a wine, having a bottle that has a high alcohol content does not guarantee a fullness or texture. Also, this phenomenon is usually seen in wines above 12% alcohol.

Regardless if this is a point of debate about a measure of quality for some people, it is definitely something interesting to look at, especially after you’ve had a few glasses. Believe it or not I have had some very curious conversations after I’ve made the comment to the person sitting next to me that they have great legs.

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