Everybody wants to be that hilarious person who makes some kind of snarky pseudo-sexual comment about checking out the legs on that glass of wine. Trust me, I work at a tasting room; there are a lot of you. So after everyone giggles at your clever joke, do you know what you are actually saying?
Legs, or tears as they are sometimes called, though there aren’t as many comedic opportunities associated with tears so it’s considerably less common, are what you see when you swirl your wine in the glass. As the wine is swirling it coats the middle of your glass and then, when you stop the movement, it falls back down to the bottom. Or at least most of it does, some of the liquid is still up where you swirled it and falling down to be the bottom much more slowly. Those are the legs. So what do they mean exactly? I feel like somewhere a long the way they took on this big perception on importance, perhaps because of all the requisite joking that takes place around them. But at some point someone decided that the even entertaining legs were a marker of a quality wine, the more legs there are the better the wine. And while legs are not unimportant or something to ignore when tasting wine, they are not a marker of quality. Legs is the alcohol present in your wine, the more alcohol the bigger and thicker the legs are, lower alcohol and you see lighter, thinner legs. Alcohol is more viscous then the rest of the wine and therefore falls down more slowly than everything else.
Perhaps for some people more alcohol means better wine but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a higher quality wine. You could just as easily have a crazy expensive bottle of Bordeaux with smaller legs than a $3 grocery store wine. The legs can indicate what type of wine you may be drinking, as there are certain varietals that tend to be higher alcohol than others. Or what area or region the wine could have come from since a warmer climate and more heat equals riper grapes and higher alcohol.
So next time you feel compelled to make a leg joke, do it! And then silence the laughter by following that up with explaining what those sexy legs actually mean.