Monthly Archives: September 2007

Quit staring at my legs

One of the things I will encourage you NOT to comment on when it comes to wine is legs.  “Nice legs” is a phrase best used in private, only with your beloved partner whom you think has attractive lower limbs and wants to hear your opinion of them. 

Unfortunately, wine legs are easy to spot, and commenting on them is one of the early defaults that a wine drinker learns.  Please, please, please resist.  Legs mean one thing: alcohol content.   If the wine legs you are seeing in your glass are so outstandingly pronounced that you simply must say something about them, then just say something about the alcoholic content in the wine, like “What percent alcohol is this?” or “What is this stuff, Port?”

Tears of WineHere’s how legs work:  wine is made of water and alcohol.  Alcohol evaporates faster than water but has lower surface tension, and so the wine in your glass of wine starts climbing the sides through capillary action.  This exacerbates the quicker evaporation of the alcohol, and the resulting change in the surface tension pushes even more wine up the side.  When gravity kicks in, the wine drops back into the glass.  The tracks of the wine running up and falling down the sides of your glass are the legs, which the French call the “tears of wine.”

Alcohol is one of the things that makes a wine full-bodied, creating that sensation of expansion in your mouth, and sometimes contributing to the mouth-coating texture of a wine.  There has been a lively discussion since late June in the wine world regarding how much alcohol is in modern, high-scoring wines, and whether that’s a good thing.  Wines from Germany usually have about 8-10% alcohol.  French & Italian wines tend to be about 12%.  California wines can range as high as 16%, which winemaker extraordinaire Randy Dunn says is too much.  Tom Wark at Fermentation agrees with him, as I tend to.  Wines & Vines pleads for an appreciation of alcohol.

No matter what side of the high-alcohol fence you’re on, or if you’re dazed by the whole hullaballoo, please take this home in your pocket.  It’s uncool to talk about legs.  Not uncool in a cool way, like Napoleon Dynamite, but simply and utterly inept, like the way our president ad libs.  Don’t say it!  You’ll thank me when you’re older.