View Full Version : Legs

08-24-2009, 03:29 PM
OK I am curious as to the value of legs in a wine/mead. I have been complimented on the legs my meads have and I know very little about why such a phenomenon takes place or is so favorable, a little incite on this would be appreciated.

08-24-2009, 03:44 PM
I really appreciate nice legs. Now you had a mead question too? ;D

As far as I know, the size/delay/duration of legs that form in wines (or any liquid) depend on things like alcohol content, surface tension, soluble protein, residual sugar, etc. Not to mention the kind and quality of the surface the liquid is on--scratched up plastic cups would not form good legs, if any at all, while super-clean crystal would probably give some of the best. I believe they are purely aesthetic, but I suppose you could say that if your mead has "good legs", then your mead also probably has an alcohol, sugar, blah blah content that is within the typical range for well-made wines/meads. And you have nice, clean glassware. Wassail!

08-24-2009, 04:55 PM
Yes my mead question related to Legs in particular. But why are they such a favorable trait, if it is just clean glassware then legs have little to do with the mead quality. Are they a sign of a well balanced mead, alcohol/sugar/water levels all working well together.I always seems to get a vague answer on this, a bit frustrating really.

08-24-2009, 05:27 PM
Some wines and meads wont show any "leg". They'll just coat the inside of a glass with a glaze. Others have few legs and others yet are like spiders. I've found that a "leggy" wine/mead have a totally different mouth feel than one that doesn’t. As far a flavor...not so much different. Not sure it means much, other than for the aesthetic appeal.

08-24-2009, 05:46 PM
Well, in years past "legs" were thought to be an indicator of quality because many fine wines do form legs when swirled in a glass. Interestingly enough, all fortified wines will form legs, whether they taste fine or not. What legs really indicate is that there is enough alcohol in the mix to allow for a phenomenon called the Gibbs-Marangoni effect to take place.

The mixture of water, ethanol and misc. solids that comprise wine (or mead, or any similar products) has a surface tension of around 46 dyne/cm. Don't worry about what that number exactly means - you don't need to know how to tell a dyne from a newton to understand this - but just suffice it to say that the higher that number, the more the molecules in the substance tend to want to pull closer together. When you swirl your mead in the glass, it first coats the glass surface with a more or less even film of liquid. But as a little of the ethanol in that exposed liquid evaporates (and it evaporates faster than the water), the surface tension of that which remains goes up. The surface tension of plain water is around 72 dyne/cm. As the surface tension increases, molecules adjacent to one another pull more tightly together, and the net result is that the once even sheet of liquid in your glass transforms itself into small rivulets, or "legs," or "tears," or "church windows," or any of a number of other colorful descriptive terms that are used to describe the event.

The presence of legs indicates nothing about your wine/mead other than it has enough ethanol in it to qualify as a wine, and your glass was clean enough and free enough of surfactant (aka detergent) to allow the liquid to cling to its sides in the first place, while allowing differential evaporation to take place.

By the way interfacial tension, a phenomenon related to surface tension, is specifically the thing that causes the liquid to adhere to the surface of the glass in the first place.

08-24-2009, 07:31 PM
Thank you much guys, especially wayne. I was curious as to what it meant in the make up of my mead. Thus far I have had fantastic legs in all of my meads. I have two meads bottled and aging for Mazer Cup in a year or two. Both have been good at a young age, and should be great by the time I get them to competition.

08-24-2009, 07:53 PM
Wayne, you rock.

Now I really have to go. (tells self to get off the darned computer and get out the door)

08-24-2009, 08:56 PM
That is the most excellent explanation......Thank you Wayne.