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Do ‘wine legs’ mean a better wine? – ask Decanter

Do 'wine legs' tell you anything about what's in your glass? We speak to the experts…

‘Wine legs: It’s surely one of the most mythologised aspects of wine drinking.’

What are wine legs?

The ‘legs’ of wine are the droplets that form along the edge of your glass, when you swirl a wine.

Some believe that the appearance of them reflects the quality of the wine in the glass.

What do they tell you about a wine?

‘In all the tastings I host, I get more questions about wine legs than any other,’ said Matt Walls. ‘It’s surely one of the most mythologised aspects of wine drinking.’

The reality is that ‘legs tell you relatively little about the wine, and nothing about the quality of what’s in the glass’.

However, the myth lives on because of the real reason wine legs appear – and how difficult it can be to explain.

‘It’s essentially down to a process known as Marangoni flows,’ said Walls.

‘Tears are formed due to a combination of different forces – surface tension forces and intermolecular forces. It’s essentially caused by the gradual evaporation of alcohol in a water/alcohol solution.’

‘The only information that legs offer to the wine lover is that your wine contains alcohol. But you don’t need legs to tell you that!’

How they get there

Jane Anson, in a previous article in Decanter magazine, said, ‘When you swirl wine in your glass, alcohol will first gather at the sides, then start to evaporate, while the water (and other molecules in the wine) will turn into droplets that will crawl back to the glass, like raindrops on a window.’

‘This also means the temperature and humidity of the room that you’re tasting in will also affect the legs of the wine due to the evaporation rate of the alcohol.’

Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter

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