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Brad Johnson

Wine Legs: Legs On Wine Glass | Why Do They Happen?

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From those learning the sommelier definition, how to become a sommelier to people who simply enjoy drinking wine, there are terms you should get familiar with. Some wine tasting terms describe the mouthfeel of a wine, like meaty or light-bodied. Other terms refer to specific wine equipment, like an aerator or decanter

One wine phrase that sounds odd at first blush is “wine legs”. But wait, isn’t wine an inanimate substance that doesn’t need to move around? Your wine isn’t going to stand up on its legs and walk off the table, will it?

Well, no, it won’t. But remember that not every hospitality industry term is meant to be taken literally. So, what are wine legs, and what’s the significance of them? Take a closer look in this blog post. If you're buying a winery and looking to host tastings, this term will certainly come up along the way.

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Wine Legs Meaning: Tears Of Wine

Wine legs are streaks of condensation on the walls of a wine glass that form after wine is swirled or sipped. Though some people believe that wine legs reveal hidden information about wine, like whether or not it is a low acid wine, there is no scientific basis for this viewpoint. 

People use several terms to describe wine legs. Other phrases include tears of wine, church windows, wine tears, and wine fingers. As you can see, each of these terms is based on what it looks similar to in the real world. 

Why Are Wine Streaks Called Tears Of Wine?

Liquid streaks on a wine glass are called tears of wine because they look similar to tears on a face. That said, you may be wondering why some people use this term, as it sounds odd.

Some use this phrase because describing wine as “crying” can be humorous, whereas others think it’s too harsh or irrelevant. No matter which term you prefer, it’s useful for describing your experiences with different wine varietals

How Do Wine Legs Form?

Wine legs are formed by the phenomenon of liquid surface tension. This is the tendency of resting liquid surfaces to shrink into the smallest surface area possible. In other words, liquids that aren’t constantly in motion tend to consolidate the amount of space that they take up.

This is why the liquid inside a glass is more likely to form streaks than stay spread out across the entire surface that it touched. The streaks take up less space and allow the liquid to return to a resting state faster. 

Over time, people began calling these condensed streaks wine legs, and the term stuck.  Many people enjoy looking at the wine legs in glasses and seeing different patterns after pouring wine. Find out how wine legs make you feel by using one of these wine pour spouts.

What’s The Significance Of Wine Legs?

Though wine leg formation depends on several factors, the presence of them usually indicates higher wine alcohol content. Alcohol and water bond through hydrogen molecules, which can give liquids a “sticky” property. 

You can use this to assess the relative alcohol content of wines at a glance. If you see more wine legs, it’s likely a higher alcohol content. If you see fewer, it’s probably a lighter wine. Glasses with more legs usually indicate more sugar in wine, too.

If there are several wine legs on your glass and the wine’s taste is too strong, it’s helpful to learn how to decant wine. This is the process of putting wine into a large vase or flask that increases the wine’s oxidation level. By giving your wine a chance to sit, it balances the acidity and tannins in wine.

Getting wine flavors just right is also important when training bar staff. But decanting may be the least of your worries if you’re in charge of bar management and wine inventory. Make the most of your limited time with BinWise, our comprehensive bar inventory software.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Wine Legs

If you’ve been drinking wine for years, chances are you’re familiar with a lot, like wine storage at home and common wine bottle sizes. If you just started consuming it, a term like wine legs is definitely an eyebrow-raiser. 

To demystify this strange and somewhat comical term, we pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions about wine legs. Take a look at the questions with our answers below: 

What does it mean when a wine has legs?

Wine legs are the streaks of water that remain in a glass after drinking it. There is no meaning to wine legs other than the fact that they may indicate higher alcohol content. Wine storage temperature may affect the amount of legs that appear initially, but this doesn’t point to any other information. 

Many people who consume wine enjoy each beverage’s subtle differences. Consuming wine by the glass in order to compare wine legs can be a lighthearted point of conversation or just a fun way to observe the progress of your drink. 

Are wine legs good or bad?

There is no inherently good or bad quality of wine legs; they are completely neutral. They are simply the residual effect of drinking wine after a standard wine pour. Because wine is made with varying ingredients, people have come to think that wine legs hold hidden information.

However, this would mean that the wine legs themselves would offer different insights into wine than the wine manufacturer. If you want to know more about how a wine is made and the ingredients in it, it’s best to read the manufacturer’s literature or contact them directly. 

Why does good wine have legs?

It is a myth that “good” wine has legs whereas “bad” wine does not. There is some evidence that a higher alcohol concentration in wine creates more legs, but that doesn’t mean lower-alcohol wine is bad. 

Also, what is considered a good wine is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Some styles like dark reds are a better wine pairing for rich, hearty meals than lighter wines. On the flipside, rose and white wines match light, summer meals like pasta dishes and salads. Learn about the calories in wine to understand the topic better. You can even read specifically about calories in rose wine.

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The Wines Have Legs

Now that you know what those streaks on your wine glass are called, you can educate family members and friends. Though they may be disappointed to find out they aren’t secret letters waiting to be read, it’s still a fun topic of conversation. 

Wine legs are still a fast and easy way to tell how much alcohol is in a wine, too. The more legs, the higher the alcohol concentration. Remember not to take this little wine tidbit too seriously; just kick back and enjoy a good drink!

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