Chances are you’ve seen someone swirl a glass of red wine, hold the glass in front of their face and say something like “this wine has really nice legs.” What the term “legs” refers to is the tears of wine that may run down the sides of the glass after you’ve given it a swirl.
As sexy as a nice set of legs might be, and as suave as one might sound admiring them, the important thing to realize is that they have no bearing on the quality of wine itself. What the legs will do is give you an idea of the wine’s alcohol content. Legs form as a result of the difference in surface tension between alcohol and water. Therefore, a wine with higher alcohol content will form more pronounced tears, whereas a wine with a lower alcohol percentage will flow more evenly back into the glass.
Since wines from warmer areas typically produce riper, more full-bodied wines that are, in turn, higher in alcohol, you can use the tears to make some guesses about the style or origin of the glass you’re drinking.
So next time someone tries to comment on how "nice" the legs running down a glass of wine are, you can have a little chuckle inside and ask them to make a wager on the alcohol content.
If long legs are your thing, start drinking more port!
For a quick guide to accessing quality visit winecyclopedia.com.