What Do Wine Legs Mean

Have you ever noticed the graceful lines that glide down the side of a wine glass? Often called “wine legs” or “tears,” these phenomena offer interesting clues about the wine we’re about to enjoy. Being …

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Have you ever noticed the graceful lines that glide down the side of a wine glass? Often called “wine legs” or “tears,” these phenomena offer interesting clues about the wine we’re about to enjoy. Being a wine enthusiast myself, the concept of wine legs fascinates me, and in this article, I aim to delve into their importance and what they signify.

What are Wine Legs?

Wine legs are the droplets or streaks that form on the inside of a wine glass after swirling the wine around. You may have noticed that some wines produce bigger and slower legs, while others create smaller and faster ones. These legs form due to a phenomenon called the Marangoni effect, which is influenced by the factors of surface tension and alcohol content.

Surface Tension and Alcohol Content

Surface tension is the force that causes liquid molecules to stick together. In wine, the alcohol content affects the surface tension, creating a difference between the water and alcohol molecules. When you swirl the wine glass, the liquid coats the sides, and as it evaporates, it creates a pattern of droplets or streaks. The pattern and speed at which the legs form can provide insights into the wine’s viscosity and alcohol content.

Viscosity and Alcohol Content

Viscosity refers to the texture or thickness of a liquid. Wines with higher alcohol content tend to have more viscous legs that flow down the glass more slowly. This is because alcohol has a higher surface tension than water, causing the liquid to cling to the sides and form bigger droplets. On the other hand, wines with lower alcohol content will have less viscous legs that flow down the glass more quickly.

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Interpreting Wine Legs

While wine legs can be visually appealing, they don’t necessarily indicate the quality or taste of the wine. However, they can provide clues about its alcohol and sugar levels. Wines with higher alcohol content and residual sugar, such as dessert wines, tend to produce thicker and more prominent legs. On the contrary, dry wines with lower alcohol content may have less noticeable legs.

It’s important to note that the presence or absence of wine legs doesn’t determine the wine’s quality or flavor profile. The taste and enjoyment of wine are influenced by various factors, including grape variety, winemaking techniques, and personal preferences.

My Personal Take

As a wine lover, I find wine legs to be mesmerizing. They add an aesthetic element to the wine-drinking experience, and while they may not reveal everything about the wine, they certainly spark curiosity. I often catch myself swishing my glass, observing the legs flow down, and trying to decipher their meaning. It’s like a secret language between the wine and me, enhancing the enjoyment of each sip.


Next time you pour yourself a glass of wine, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the wine legs. While they may not be the ultimate judge of a wine’s quality, they provide a glimpse into its alcohol content and viscosity. Remember, wine is a complex and multi-faceted beverage, and wine legs are just one small part of its intriguing story.

John has been a hobbyist winemaker for several years, with a few friends who are winery owners. He writes mostly about winemaking topics for newer home vintners.
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