There are many processes and terms in wine that cause great confusion to the general public. Wine stories and facts go through a process of Chinese whispers and this leads to a few misconceptions. As such, here are some key wine terms explained for what they are and aren’t.
Legs or Tears
Legs or tears are the drops of wine that run down the inside of the glass after you swirl the glass. low levels of legs or tears will fall down the glass like a sheet-like water in a glass. High levels of legs or tears will fall down the glass as individual drops, like honey. Legs or Tears are particularly important in blind wine tastings as they give you important information about the wine. Wines that are high in sugar have pronounced legs or tears, so sweet wines will form slow obvious drops. The most important aspect that tears or legs can show is alcohol. Wines that are high in Alcohol have pronounced legs or tears. This is important because high alcohol wines tend to come from warm climates, so in a blind tasting, a dry wine with pronounced tears will almost definitely come from a warm climate. The common misconception is that tears or legs are linked to the quality of the wine.
The common misconception is that a wine becomes corked if bits of the cork fall into the wine, particularly when opening the wine. In fact, it comes from a flaw with the cork that causes the presence of the chemical TCA (2,4,6 – trichloroanisole). The result is a wine that will smell of damp cardboard or wet dog. This means that the bottle of wine was corked before you opened it and regardless of how well or poorly you opened the bottle, you did not cause the problem.
If you do drop small amounts of cork into the wine, simply remove them by sieving or decanting the wine as soon as possible and there shouldn’t be any damage to the wine.
Let it Breathe
As with many things in the world of wine, this is something loved by those that enjoy talking down to people about wine and misunderstood my many. The most common interpretation of “letting it breathe” is to simply remove the cork from the bottle a couple of hours before serving it, this is meant to remove some of the heady alcohol fumes and let the wine open up a bit. However, with the amount of wine exposed to air in when in the bottle is hardly going to do anything. So, if you’re wanting to get the full benefits of letting your wine breathe then decant the bottle, use an aerator or use large glasses and swirl the wine a lot before drinking.