This week’s Wine Word of the Week was suggested by “Glen” on our Facebook Fan Page. This is a word I get asked about alot and I think we’ve all heard someone at one point or another remark “nice legs!” while pondering their glass after taking a sip of wine. So are these “legs” any indication of the quality of the wine and what exactly can they tell us? Let’s break it down.
The “legs” of a wine refers to the streaks that trace their way vertically down the inside of the glass after swirling or taking a sip of the wine. They are generally most noticeable in big, bold red wines although, to a lesser extent, they can be observed in white wine as well. From a professional standpoint (i.e. taking an exam or judging a wine) a wine’s “legs” are not very helpful because different glass soap/detergent can make them seem more or less pronounced so they are somewhat unreliable. Recreationally speaking however, the presence of legs can provide insight into either the alcohol and/or sugar content of a wine. Both alcohol and sugar increase a wine’s viscosity, or “thickness” of the liquid, meaning a higher presence of either substances will result in a more dramatic manifestation of “legs” in your glass.
In a dry, red wine, alcohol is largely responsible for the presence of legs. For example, if you compared a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon to a glass of Pinot Noir, the Cabernet Sauvignon would most likely have more prominent legs due to its higher alcohol content relative to Pinot Noir. On the other hand, if you were sipping a glass of Sauternes (the storied sweet, white dessert wine from Bordeaux) and noticed viscous, golden streaks on the inside of your glass, they would be due to the wine’s high sugar content. While the presence of “legs” can be reflective of a wine’s alcohol and/or sugar content, they are not indicative of a wine’s quality or price.
I hope that helps clarify the meaning of the term “legs” as it relates to wine. To suggest a word for our “Wine Word of the Week” segment, please post it on our Facebook Fan Page by clicking here. If we use your word, your name will be entered into a drawing to win a free month of The Wine Atelier’s “Explorateur” Wine Club – we look forward to hearing from you!