Tears of Wine

Physicist Richard Feynman once famously ended a lecture by describing how the whole universe can be found in a glass of wine. And there is certainly plenty of fluid dynamics in one. In the photo above, we see in the shadows how a film of wine drips down into the main pool below. This effect is known by many names, including tears of wine and wine legs; it can also be found in other high alcohol content beverages. Several effects are at play. Capillary action, the same effect that allows plants to draw water up from their roots, helps the wine flow up the wall of the glass. At the same time, the alcohol in this wine film evaporates faster than the water, raising the surface tension of the wine film relative to the main pool of wine below. Because of this gradient in surface tension, the wine will tend to flow up the walls of the glass away from the area of lower surface tension. This Marangoni effect also helps draw the wine upward. When the weight of the wine film is too great for capillary action and surface tension to hold it in place, droplets of wine–the legs themselves–flow back downward. (Photo credit: Greg Emel)

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