Unpolished Grape 101: What Are Wine Legs & Tears?

When you are drinking or swirling a glass of wine, you may spot something pretty cool: droplets that form on the sides of the glass. This scientific phenomenon is affectionately referred to as “tears” or “legs.”

So what causes this to occur? Alcohol and sugar.

Alcohol– A higher presence of alcohol creates the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect: the tears form “when there is a gradient of surface tension at the interface between two phases – in most situations, a liquid-gas interface.” In other words, the tears are created as the alcohol is evaporating from the glass.

Sugar– Wine tears are also formed and maintained by the presence of sugar. The sugar weight adds body and form to the legs, thereby causing them to linger and flow slower down the glass. I’ve seen tears take several minutes to mosey on down!

Long legs and a plethora of tears (cry me a river), doesn’t mean the wine is good or bad. Rather, it’s simply indicative of higher levels of alcohol or sugar in your wine.

See, drinking wine is like attending science class!


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