Home » Chris (Editor/Head Geek) » What are Alcohol Legs? | Beer Geek Nation Craft Beer Reviews

What are Alcohol Legs? | Beer Geek Nation Craft Beer Reviews

I get asked all the time what alcohol legs in beer are so here we go!

The phenomenon called tears of wine is manifested as a ring of clear liquid, near the top of a glass of wine, from which droplets continuously form and drop back into the wine. It is most readily observed in a wine which has a high alcohol content. It is also referred to as wine legs, curtains, or church windows.

The effect is a consequence of the fact that alcohol has a lower surface tension than water. If alcohol is mixed with water inhomogeneously, a region with a lower concentration of alcohol will pull on the surrounding fluid more strongly than a region with a higher alcohol concentration. The result is that the liquid tends to flow away from regions with higher alcohol concentration. This can be easily and strikingly demonstrated by spreading a thin film of water on a smooth surface and then allowing a drop of alcohol to fall on the center of the film. The liquid will rush out of the region where the drop of alcohol fell.
Wine is mostly a mixture of alcohol and water, with dissolved sugars, acids, colourants and flavourants. Where the surface of the wine meets the side of the glass, capillary action makes the liquid climb the side of the glass. As it does so, both alcohol and water evaporate from the rising film, but the alcohol evaporates faster, due to its higher vapor pressure. The resulting decrease in the concentration of alcohol causes the surface tension of the liquid to increase, and this causes more liquid to be drawn up from the bulk of the wine, which has a lower surface tension because of its higher alcohol content. The wine moves up the side of the glass and forms droplets that fall back under their own weight.
The phenomenon was first correctly explained by physicist James Thomson,[1] the elder brother of Lord Kelvin, in 1855. It is an instance of what is today called the Marangoni effect[2] (or the Gibbs-Marangoni effect): the flow of liquid caused by surface tension gradients. Beer Geek Nation craft bee reviews.

About Chris Steltz

Clinical lab scientist by day, beer geek by night.