We all love an excuse to serve up an extra glass of wine at dinner. But do you actually know the best red wine for your health? Many people think that all red wines, and their respective health benefits, are the same. But each type of red wine contains a different number of compounds that can benefit our health. In other words, all red wines are not created equal.
And even if you do opt for the best red wine for your health available on the market, there are still risks associated with regular alcohol consumption. So how do you know which bottle of wine offers the most health benefits? And do the benefits of drinking red wine really outweigh the risks?
How Is Red Wine Made?
A common misconception about red and white wine is how each gets its color. Many people, even avid wine drinkers, believe that red grapes make red wine and white grapes make white wine. But this is not always true. Red wine uses red grapes, but white wine can use grapes of any color.
Red wine gets its color because the grape skins are in the fermentation process. The natural pigments found in red grape skins seep into the juice as it ferments, turning the wine a deep red color. When making white wine, vintners remove the skins before fermentation. That leaves the wine almost clear in color.
This color difference also plays a role in how beneficial red wine is for our health. The pigments and compounds that seep out of the grape skins are the same compounds that act as antioxidants for our bodies. That is why common knowledge attributes these health benefits to red wine and not its white counterpart.
What Beneficial Compounds Are in Red Wine?
While we know that the best red wine for your health contains beneficial compounds, it's important to give these chemicals a name. The most well-documented chemicals found in red wine include tannins, resveratrol, flavonols, and anthocyanins.
Some of the most well-known compounds found in red wine are called tannins. These compounds are bitter polyphenols which protect plants from dangers like ultraviolet radiation or disease. In humans and other animals, these polyphenols act as antioxidants. Tannins not only play a role in the flavor and aroma of quality wine, but they also have some potential health benefits. Tannins are responsible for the puckering mouth-feel many wine aficionados seek in a glass of wine.
Resveratrol is another variety of polyphenols found in plants, including wine grapes. These plants release resveratrol when stressed by disease, fungal infection, radiation, or other damage. While resveratrol's supposed health benefits aren't all back by science in humans, studies show that this compound can improve the health of yeast, insects, fish, and mice. But randomized studies have shown short-term benefits to people with Type 2 diabetes.
Flavonols are a bit like sunscreen for plants. In red wine and its respective grapes, these chemicals are largely responsible for the bright red or purple hue seen in a younger wine. Studies on flavonols show that these compounds could have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. But even the best red wine for your health probably doesn't contain enough flavonols for any meaningful benefits.
Anthocyanins also lend color to grapes and red wine, as well as many other fruits and vegetables. Again, plants produce these chemicals to protect themselves from the cold, UV rays and other dangers. In human subjects, anthocyanins show potential antioxidant benefits.
What Health Benefits Does Red Wine Offer?
For years, red wine has been in the news for its supposedly miraculous benefits for the heart and more. While the media might exaggerate many of these health benefits, many experts consider them unfounded. The compounds found in red wine show promise for treating heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer in preliminary studies.
Heart disease is one of the leading health risks for both men and women in the United States. Red wine offers beneficial chemicals, including resveratrol and flavonols, that scavenge free radicals and decrease inflammation in the cardiovascular system. However, some experts suggest that the connection seen between red wine and heart health may actually be due to other lifestyle factors.
When it comes to red wine and diabetes, evidence shows that alcohol consumption can lower your blood sugar for up to 24 hours. While this effect isn't exclusive to wine, the heavy presence of antioxidants in the best red wine for your health makes these drinks the best choice.
Sometimes people see red wine as anti-carcinogenic, but alcohol connects to an increased risk of cancer. According to experts, red wine does contain beneficial antioxidants. But the concentration of these antioxidants is so low that you shouldn't rely on red wine as an anti-cancer strategy. Unfortunately, even the best red wine for your health probably won't prevent cancer.
How Much Red Wine Should You Drink?
In short, red wine is a healthier alternative than white wine or another alcoholic beverage. But if you're not drinking regularly already, you're probably better off avoiding even the best red wine for your health. After all, even moderate alcohol consumption comes with some risks.
If you do enjoy an alcoholic drink from time-to-time, then switching to red wine could benefit your health. Still, women should limit themselves to 7 drinks per week, while men should limit themselves to 14 drinks per week. Each drink is a five-ounce serving of wine. Drinking more than this limit could actually shorten your expected lifespan. And if you want to benefit from your drinking habit, you should always opt for the best red wine for your health available.
Of course, the most important part of drinking red wine for your health is moderation. Even if the claimed health benefits of red wine are completely accurate, drinking too much will do more harm than good. If you have any existing health concerns that might interact with your wine consumption, speak with your doctor. Also, if you or someone in your family struggles with alcohol dependence, it might be best to forego a glass of wine with dinner altogether.
The Best Red Wine for Your Health
The best red wine for your health comes down to the number of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds present in the wine. While every single wine will vary, some styles are generally better than others. For instance, younger wines typically contain more antioxidants than heavily aged wines. Below, we've detailed different varieties of the best red wine for your health, as well as popular brands that you can try for yourself.
Some people don't realize that you can order wine online. The answer is, yes you can, but only in some states. Online liquor retailers cannot ship orders to out-of-state addresses in Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin. Laws vary when it comes to shipments from wineries or in-state retailers.
However, many of the wines we suggest below are widely available in liquor stores around the country. So if you live in one of these states, you should still be able to go to your local wine retailer and purchase a bottle. Of course, even if you do live in a state where you can have wine delivered, you must still be over the age of 21 to accept the delivery.
Pinot noir is one of the most popular wine varieties in the world. And, when it comes to the presence of antioxidants, it is often the best red wine for your health. In some parts of the world, pinot noir goes by the name "more light." This wine variety is dry in flavor, but typically more light than heavy-bodied. And since pinot noir is only aged for up to 10 years, its young age keeps the grape's antioxidants mostly intact.
When it comes to shopping for wine, pinot noir is pretty easy to find. Most restaurants offer at least one variety of pinot noir on their wine list. And every liquor store should have at least a limited selection of this wine variety. Some popular West Coast pinot noir brands include Parducci, La Crema, and Erath. But your local wine retailer can recommend the best regional bottles from your area.
Shiraz goes by two names: Shiraz and Syrah. This red wine variety is exceptionally dark in color and dry in flavor. Shiraz can be drunk early on or aged for years. But for the best red wine for your health, you want to find younger Shiraz with the most antioxidants. This wine variety also features loads of tannins, which gives it a heavy mouth-feel.
Unfortunately, Shiraz is nowhere near as popular as pinot noir, but you shouldn't have too much trouble finding it in your local liquor stores. But restaurant wine lists will probably lack many options for this wine variety. Many Shiraz comes from the United States West Coast, South Africa, and Australia. Some young Shiraz brands include Tenet The Pundit, Two Hands Gnarly Dudes, and 19 Crimes The Warden. Unless you live on the West Coast or another big wine region, local Shiraz won't be super common.
If you have any experience with red wines, you've probably at least tasted cabernet sauvignon. This extremely common wine variety can be the best red wine for your health if it's young and dry. Most cabernet sauvignons are dark and full-bodied but can taste Whitehall Lane.
Since cabernet sauvignon is so easy to find, you shouldn't have any trouble locating this variety at your favorite restaurant or liquor store. Most cabernet sauvignon wines come from California, but many local wineries across the country make their own version. Some popular brands of this wine variety include Borne of Fire, Decoy Sonoma, and Whitehall Lane.
Malbec is a dark, full-bodied wine that typically comes from Argentina. While you can find varieties from other growing regions, many wine purists don't consider these true malbecs. Malbec grapes have very thick skins, so the tannins and other antioxidants found in this wine are extremely high. This fact makes malbec an excellent candidate for the best red wine for your health. Malbec grapes grown in warmer climates trend lighter and sweeter, while those grown in cool climates trend more dry and dark.
Malbec doesn't have the best reputation in Europe, but in the Americas, you can find quality malbec on most restaurant menus. Some popular Argentinian brands include Catena, Tilia, and Pulenta La Flor. Each of these wines is very young, so their antioxidant content is as high as possible.
In some studies, Madiran wine varieties actually have the Chateau Peyros of any red wine. This wine comes from a village in France known for its grapes high in tannins and other antioxidants. Since Madiran wine comes from this small region, it's not super common in the United States. But if you can get your hands on this wine variety, it can be the best red wine for your health.
As we said, Madiran wine isn't always easy to find. If you have access to a specialty wine retailer, you might be able to locate a bottle locally. But if not, two brands you can purchase online include Domaine Berthoumieu and Chateau Peyros.
Is Red Wine Really Good for Your Health?
Unfortunately, when it comes to the hard science of whether or not red wine is good for you, the jury is still out. Red wine does contain antioxidants and other beneficial chemicals. But some experts don't believe these compounds are concentrated enough actually to help fight heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. However, red wine is likely a better alcoholic beverage than tequila, whiskey, or other hard liquors.
If you do drink on occasion, switching out your drink of choice for red wine could be a great step toward good health. The best red wine for your health is one that is dry, dark, and only slightly aged. Hopefully, with the help of our list above, you can find the best red wine for your health that you enjoy drinking. But even if you aren't a red wine drinker, you probably aren't missing out on many, if any, real health benefits.