What are some of the healthiest wines?
Medically reviewed by Sade Meeks, MS, RD — Written by Sasha Santhakumar on April 28, 2021
There have been lots of studies into the health benefits of wine. Red wine may protect against heart disease, while white wine may benefit kidney health and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Different types of wine offer different health benefits and risks.
Some types of wine, such as sparkling wine, are higher in calories than others, while others have higher alcohol contents.
The health benefits of wine usually come from the grapes that manufacturers use to make it.
Generally, a person may gain some health benefits from wine if they consume it in moderation.
A person who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol may put themselves at risk of developing health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source define moderate drinking as two drinks or fewer per day for men and one drink or fewer per day for women.
This article discusses the potential health benefits of wine and explains the risks that can come from drinking wine.
Is wine healthy?
According to some research, wine may have potential health benefits. Many of these benefits are due to the polyphenol content in wine. Polyphenols are micronutrients present in plants.
A 2019 review that looked into the Mediterranean diet suggested that polyphenols have strong antioxidant activity, which can prevent damage to cells due to oxidative stress and inflammation.
Most polyphenols in the diet are flavonoids. Flavonoids are natural compounds present in fruit and vegetables and their products, including wine.
One 2019 studyTrusted Source into the effects of flavonoids in foods and drinks, including red wine, on neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease found that they inhibited the formation of proteins that can cause this condition.
A 2017 reviewTrusted Source also discussed the health benefits of flavonoids in wine. The researchers stated that because of these flavonoids, wine may have anticancer and anti-diabetes benefits.
For example, they noted that some polyphenols in wine can prevent or slow the growth of tumor cells, while some can block enzymes and inhibit glucose absorption.
However, in studies, researchers often considerTrusted Source the benefits of polyphenols in wine independently from the presence of alcohol.
It is important to note that the amounts of these polyphenols in wine are very low. Moreover, this study only looked at in vitro testing. Therefore, more studies are necessary to confirm the effectiveness of these health benefits for people who drink wine.
In many respects, the health risks of wine outweigh any potential benefits it may have.
For example, drinking a lot of wine can lead to negative rather than positive health consequences, includingTrusted Source:
harm to a developing fetus, in pregnant people
Red wines are classified according to the grapes the manufacturers extract them from and the region they harvest the grapes from. These grapes will have distinct properties, including their flavor and color.
Some types of red wine include:
How do manufacturers make red wine?
Manufacturers make red wine by harvesting dark grapes. They crush these grapes with the skin intact, as the skin adds to the flavor and color of the wine.
They then add yeast to the grape mixture. This enables the conversion of sugar into alcohol. This is known as the fermentation process.
They then extract the juice from the fermented grapes, filter it, and bottle it.
Potential benefits of red wine
Red wine is the most widely studied type of wine in regards to its potential health benefits.
Type 2 diabetes
One 2017 reviewTrusted Source found that the flavonoids in red wine may protect against type 2 diabetes.
However, one 2019 study found that red wine did not improve a person’s glucose levels. The authors stated that more research is necessary to confirm their findings and the safety of wine intake among people with type 2 diabetes.
A 2017 review by the American Heart Association (AHA) mentioned epidemiological studies that show that a person may have a lower risk of dying from heart disease if they drink red wine.
However, epidemiological studies may produce less reliable data.
Red wine also contains a compound called resveratrol, which is an antioxidant present in grape skin. Because manufacturers leave the skin on the grapes during the fermenting process of red wine, it may be a rich source of resveratrol.
One 2016 study stated that the benefits of resveratrol include its:
ability to protect against neurodegenerative conditions
However, resveratrol has low bioavailability in humans. This means that the body may not absorb it properly to fully obtain its benefits.
One 2018 systemic reviewTrusted Source that examined seven studies concluded that red wine may help regulate gut bacteria.
Gut bacteria are essential to a person’s overall health, as they help controlTrusted Source the immune system, digest fiberTrusted Source, and contribute toTrusted Source to the health of the central nervous system.
However, the authors also clarified that the complex relationship between gut bacteria and dietary polyphenols means that they cannot be sure of their positive effects on human health.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source showed that red wine consumption may lead to a lower level of disability in people with multiple sclerosis.
Potential risks of red wine
The CDC states that excessive alcohol intake caused around 95,000 deathsTrusted Source each year in the United States between 2011 and 2015.
A person may be more likelyTrusted Source to develop migraine if they drink red wine, but there are a range of serious risks associated with consuming alcohol in large amounts.
According to the CDC, the short-term health risks associated with drinking any type of alcohol in excess include:
Some long-term health risks include:
high blood pressure
a weakened immune system
mental health conditions
alcohol use disorder
Because of this, people should try to only drink red wine in moderation.
White wines are also classified according to the grapes the manufacturers extract them from and the region they harvest the grapes from.
Some types of white wine include:
How do manufacturers make white wine?
Like red wines, manufacturers harvest and crush white wine grapes.
However, with white wine, they usually separate the grape skins from the grape juice before the fermentation process.
Potential benefits of white wine
Researchers have typically focused less on white wine. Nonetheless, they have found some possible links between white wine consumption and health.
One 2018 study examined the effect of polyphenols on mice.
The researchers extracted these polyphenols from white wine and included them in the mice’s diets. They found that polyphenols may have a beneficial effect in reducing chronic inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2015 studyTrusted Source found that caffeic acid, which is a type of polyphenol present in white wine, induces the release of the compound nitric oxide (NO) from endothelial cells.
This may have a protective effect on endothelial cell function, according to the researchers.
Potential risks of white wine
A person may be more likely to develop certain skin conditions if they drink white wine.
For example, a 2017 study found that white wine was linked to an increased risk of rosacea in women. Rosacea is a type of acne.
A 2016 studyTrusted Source also found that white wine consumption was associated with an increased risk of melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer.
A person may also wish to limit their intake of white wine because it can be high in calories and may lead to weight gain if they consume it in large amounts. One glass of white wine contains 148 caloriesTrusted Source.
Manufacturers make rosé wine from black grapes that they harvest, crush, and ferment with the grape skin intact.
They ferment rosé wine at lower temperatures than they do red and white wine.
Potential health effects of rosé wine
Rosé wine does not seem to bring as many health benefits as red wine, but it brings the same potential risks as any other type of alcohol consumption.
The concentration of polyphenols in rosé wine is intermediateTrusted Source between red and white wine. Therefore, it may be a slightly healthier choice than white wine, given the potential health benefits of polyphenols.
One 2012 studyTrusted Source stated that polyphenols may help reduce low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol in the body.
Manufacturers create sparkling wine by using a still wine as a base. This base wine has usually been through the fermentation process already.
They ferment sparkling wine similarly to white wine, meaning that they remove the grape skins.
This wine then undergoes a second fermentation process, wherein carbon dioxide becomes trapped in the liquid and forms bubbles. The manufacturers will then leave the wine to mature in the bottle, after which point the yeast is removed.
After this, they may add a small amount of sugar to the wine.
Prosecco and champagne are types of sparkling wine.
Potential benefits of sparkling wine
A 2014 review found that champagne consumption may increase vascular blood flow and stimulate cognitive function.
It suggested that moderate consumption of champagne may be associated with improved vascular health and might have the potential to slow the progression of certain neurodegenerative conditions.
Potential risks of sparkling wine
Due to the added sugar in sparkling wine, consuming a lot of it can lead to tooth decay and dental cavities.
Manufacturers make fortified wine by adding extra alcohol, normally a spirit, to wine. This creates a sweeter taste and a higher alcohol content.
Port and sherry are types of fortified wine.
Potential benefits of fortified wines
One 2015 study found that the consumption of fortified wine was associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Potential risks of fortified wines
Fortified wines such as port and sherry may be high in calories, with one glass of dessert wine containing 168 caloriesTrusted Source.
Fortified wine contains more alcohol than other wines. As a result, the negative health risks associated with alcohol consumption are greater with fortified wine.
Research seems to suggest that red wine is the healthiest type of wine. However, this may be because there have been more studies into red wine than white, rosé, sparkling, and fortified wine.
Many of the health benefits associated with red wine may come from the fact that the grape skins are intact during the manufacturing process. Grape skins are the main source of antioxidants in wine.
Although a person may gain some health benefits from drinking sparkling, fortified, or rosé wine, there is a lack of research into these wines.
A person who wants to drink wine should always do so in moderation, as excessive alcohol intake can be dangerous. If a person is worried about their alcohol intake, they can contact a doctor for advice.
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