The myth: Legs on a wine glass are a sign of quality
If you’ve ever swirled a glass of wine and then allowed it to settle, you’ve likely seen its “legs”—the streaks that linger on the side of the glass, slowly running down and back into the wine itself.
Legs vary from wine to wine and some people use them as a measure of a wine’s quality. Usually, the idea is that a well-made wine has prominent legs.
But the reality is that, while wine legs can tell you something about the wine you’re drinking, there’s no connection between a wine’s legs and its quality. Plenty of world-class wines have minimal streaking in the glass, and plenty of cheap wines have strong legs.
Here’s a look at why wine legs happen and what they say about your wine.
Why Do Wine Legs Happen?
Wine legs are caused by alcohol. Legs happen because small droplets of alcohol climb the sides of a wine glass and then fall back down.
Wine is a mixture of water and ethanol (alcohol). The two of them mix together well, especially when the wine is stored without oxygen, like in a bottle.
But in the presence of oxygen—say, when you pour wine into a glass—alcohol and water begin to evaporate. They do so at different rates, with alcohol evaporating faster than water does.
As the alcohol starts to evaporate, it pulls up, while the water pulls down. That tension causes legs!
As a side note, there are a few other elements of the wine experience that can affect legs, like the shape of your glass and whether your wine has sediment.
Do Wine Legs Matter?
Wine legs are beautiful and you might enjoy looking at them. It’s fun to swirl your glass, hold it up to the light, and watch the rivulets sink back down into the rest of your wine.
But beyond the aesthetic beauty they provide, wine legs don’t really tell you much about the wine’s quality.
Some people may think that more legs means higher alcohol and therefore higher quality. Wine producers tend to manufacture bigger, bolder wines because the market prefers them. But alcohol content has no bearing on a wine’s quality. In fact, many pure Natural Wines at 10.5% are stunning and delicious. Studies show that casual drinkers prefer lower alcohol wines because they experience a greater array of flavors. Wines with less alcohol express their aromatic complexity in a more subtle, elegant way.
And for us at Dry Farm Wines, we treasure lower alcohol wines. They are a unique drinking experience that allows us to better enjoy wine’s aromatics and its pleasure.