What the Heck are Wine Legs

red wine with wine legs

No, your wine does not grow legs. (And if it does, we suggest you stop drinking the wine.) So, what are wine legs? And what are they telling you about the wine you’re drinking? 

Wine legs or tears are droplets that form on the inside of your glass. As they fall down the glass they end up looking like tears. 

They’re a scientific phenomenon that is happening right in your glass. 

wine legs in three different glasses

How do Wine Legs Happen?

The short answer is, science. Wine legs occur due to the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect. This effect is caused by the alcohol evaporating from inside your glass. 

Alcohol has a higher evaporation rate compared to the water and other molecules found in wine. This causes the alcohol present in the wine to evaporate quicker. The water-wine mixture left over is what causes the droplets on the inside of your glass. 

Alright, that is enough science for the day. 

What do Wine Tears Mean?

Many believe that if your wine has legs, it means it’s higher quality. This could not be more false. Wine legs do not mean higher quality. 

Wine experts believe that wine tears determine two things about wine: 

  1. Higher Alcohol Content – Legs will often appear when there is higher alcohol content. This goes back to the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect. Since there is more alcohol present, this will cause more tears.
  2. Your Wine is Sweet – If your wine has tears, but they are slower to form, this could mean that your wine has a higher sugar content. Sweet wines have a higher viscosity which means it has a sticky consistency. Due to the stickiness, the legs will travel slower on the side of your glass. 

However, wine tears really don’t tell you much about the wine you’re drinking. The effect could also change due to temperature and humidity. 

Fun Fact: Wine tears will NOT show up in a closed bottle of wine. This is because there is no way for the alcohol to evaporate. 

How to see if Your Wine has Legs

Want to see wine tears for yourself? Here is how to do it:

Step 1 – Before swirling your glass, tilt your glass and let the wine flow to one side

Step 2 – Level the glass and then watch the legs form

Step 3 – What do the legs tell you? Are they slower? Are there a lot of them? 

red wine with wine legs

In Vino Finito

Tell us what you think your wine tears are telling you in the comments! 

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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