Demystifying Legs/Tears


While leading clients through our tasting at WineinProvence, the main goal is to demystify the often intimidating world of wine in a fun and relaxed atmosphere where questions are encouraged. During a recent Signature French Wine Tasting with two lovely American clients, we were asked about the “lace” of the wine in the glass. At first, I was stumped because I’d never heard this term before but after some discussion, we concluded that the question was referring to the legs of the wine.

This is probably the top question we are asked during any of our wine packages. Every causal wine drinker seems to have heard about legs but nobody has any idea what it means or why it is important to wine. So, let’s clear up this confusing term and demystify some wine lingo for you.

Legs, or the more politically correct term “tears,” refers to when you swirl your glass and see the wine streaking down the sides of the bowl. Every wine has tears but there is a difference to the speed and thickness that is worth noting. Tears are a sign of viscosity, indicating level of alcohol and sugar. A sweet dessert wine, like a port or late harvest Zinfandel, will have thick, slow moving tears that ooze down the glass like syrup. Dry wines, like a Pinot Grigio or Cabernet Sauvignon, will have tears that zip down the glass in quick streaks.

Here in lies one of the biggest misconceptions of wine; a good wine has good legs.

Legs/tears tell you nothing about the quality of the wine. It’s almost silly to hear someone comment, “Wow, look at the legs on this wine!” because all wines have them but it will not tell you that a wine is good or bad. Mainly, this is a subconcious clue to our eyes telling us how big of a sip to take. You wouldn’t want to take a huge glup of syrupy dessert wine that coats the glass like molasses, but instead, you’d want to take a small nip. On the other hand, wines without any residual sugar will have streaky, fast-moving tears that indicate it is safe to take a nice hearty sip without fear of sugar shock.

So whether you call them tears or legs, whether you are a beginner or have extensive knowledge of wine- you would enjoy a fun, anxiety-free experience tasting with WineinProvence, where you won’t be judged for asking questions, scolded for saying legs but will be reassured to not let the wine snobs of the world get you down!