So you’re at a party and someone swirls a glass of wine, holds it up to the light and comments on its "legs."
Should you be impressed?
Heck no. That person clearly came alone and is just trying to get some attention.
The only reason to hold a glass up to the light is because you’re looking for the gnat that fell in.
If you really want to "see" the wine in your glass, tip it over a white surface. Now the color is accurate. If it’s a lighter white or a purpley red, its probably a younger wine. As they age, white wines get darker, whereas red wines get lighter. But both will tend towards brown.
But now your brain is prepared. If it’s a younger wine, you can probably expect fruitier flavors when you taste it. An older wine will have less fruit, more "earthiness".
Too much brown can also mean the wine is bad. So prepare for that too.
If your red wine has black sludge at the bottom of the glass, it’s because its aged. It’s the result of a scientific process, but since we skipped Chemistry class, think of it as the coloring dripping out of the wine and falling to the bottom. That’s why reds get lighter as they age.
Can you drink the sludge? It certainly won’t hurt you and if you pour us 1945 Chateau Lafite odds are good we’re going to lick the glass clean.
Now try to swirl it. Though be careful, you don’t want to be wearing your wine.
Your best bet is to put your glass on a flat surface, slip the stem between two fingers and swirl.
Swirling allows some oxygen to get into your glass. There are over 200 compounds in wine that you can smell, so by letting the oxygen in, you’re releasing them.
You then may notice the wine dripping down the glass. The French call those drippings "tears." No surprise, we Americans like to refer to them as "legs" – because, no doubt, we’d rather talk about legs than tears.
The more legs in your glass, the more alcohol in the wine.
But let’s be clear — legs do not equal quality — they just equal alcohol.
Now this whole see/swirl process should take about 30 seconds.
If you spend more time than that, maybe its you who came alone.
And try this Spanish Rioja (ree OH hah) experiment. Check the color of each wine and let us know which one is younger.
CVNE Cune Crianza Rioja ($10)
CVNE Cune Riserva Rioja ($19)
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.