Red Wine – Healthy or Not?

by updated 2012/12/16

Yesterday’s post got me thinking that so much media hype has been given to the possibility that drinking red wine may be good for you.  But I am not so sure it stands up to scrutiny.  First, the amount of red wine that you supposedly must drink to get the benefit of the magic compound, resveratrol, is large.  There are some very expensive resveratrol supplements for sale, but even if you could afford them, some people think the evidence for resveratrol benefits is skimpy, at best.  One of the biggest claims for this compound is that it may extend life expectancy.  Who knows?  Length of life, and especially length of healthy life, seems to me to be related more to overall diet and lifestyle and the luck of genetics than to any one specific magic potion.   I work with a man who is 72 or 73 years old, still doing very physical work with no trouble, appears very healthy, and show little sign of slowing down.  He is a Mormon and never drinks wine, but apparently picked his parents well.

My relationship with red wine is a bit unusual and completely unrelated to any thought that it might be good for me.  I often have a glass, sometimes two, with or before dinner.  I only like red wine, not white.  I also only like it from late fall through late spring.  I totally lose my taste for it during the months from about late April through mid-October.  During those months I will often have a beer instead.  In the time from October to April I will almost never drink a beer.  Odd isn’t it?  It may be related to temperature, but I don’t think so.  Even during a cold September or May period, I don’t desire red wine.  And even if we have a warm spell later in October or April, I won’t feel like a beer.  I think it may be more related to day length.

Then there is the whole problem of finding the red wine that you like best.  I am lucky that I like most, but still am sometimes frustrated when trying to choose.  I may find a great red wine from a specific winery.  Then when I get it the next time it may be labeled the same, but be a different year variety and not be as good.  Also one Merlot may be great, another not so much so.  Plus, cost is not always a predictor of quality.  I usually buy what is on sale and buy 6 at a time for an additional discount.  It is as likely that these on sale wines may be as good, or as bad, as one that is twice the price.  On the other hand, I like some specific micro beers and they are consistent year to year.

Another issue is keeping red wine.  I usually will drink only a glass or two so a bottle will last more than a day.  Add in a day to the open bottle period where I might not drink a galss and sometimes 3 or 4 days pass from when I open the bottle until I drink the last of it.  Red wine never seems to taste as good to me after the first day it is opened and sometimes by the 3rd or 4th day, the taste has completely changed.  I have tried different ways of keeping it, but it does not seem to matter.  I know I could just drink the whole bottle when I open it, :-) but that’s not really my style or desire.  What do you red wine drinkers do?  Do you have tricks that get you good wine every time?  How do you keep, or do you even keep wine after it is opened?  And does anyone else lose their taste for wine during the longer days of the year?

Will Sig
1 Maureen

Hi Will,
Interesting post. I started drinking red wine about 15 years ago, one or two glasses with dinner, like you. Prior to that I used to drink beer. Now I can’t stand beer at all. I love red wine but when the weather is hot its not as appealing to me and I switch to white – over lots of ice. Maybe its because red wine warms me up. After a couple glasses I start to sweat a little. Does wine have that affect on anybody else?
Maureen

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2 Will

Hi Maureen – I don’t like white wine that much as it seems too sweet for me. But I bet the reason you change over in the summer is exactly why I lose my taste for red wine at that time too. ‘

Think about your question, I believe it does have that effect. It is more of an internal heat with me though. I don’t actually notice my temperature rising or perspiring though.

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3 Maverick

I believe that red wine has good effect to the human body… I believe that it can benefit to our hearts…

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4 Jan

Hi Will
It is interesting how research changes, one day wine is bad for you, the next it’s an amazing health food full of anti-oxidants, recently I read an article that said people who don’t drink lived longer than those who do! Not happy Jan! When I was studying at college my nutrition teacher told us tea and coffee were evil but now they have found black tea to be very protective of skin cancer (which is why I reckon my fair skin in the Aussie sun for so many years is OK) and coffee as well is full of anti-oxidants and protective of heart disease. And chocolate, well now it’s just about the health food of the century with its anti-oxidants, feel good hormones, calcium and blood pressure lowering qualities etc etc. We hardly go a week without them finding something good about chocolate!

But I digress. Re the red wine. My partner and I almost never drink it in the summer months when it is hot and muggy. We drink champagne and white wine all year round, although we are on the wagon at the moment. Like you we find that the quality varies from year to year and sometimes even batch to batch! We buy bottles that are on special and 6 at a time as well when we are buying. Every now and then I would buy a $20-$30 bottle of wine and I cannot honestly say that I ever found one that was far superior to the $7-$12 bottles. I guess to really taste that difference we would have to up the anti a bit. As we have to watch our budget, it’s not really worth paying $50 or more for a bottle when we have no idea if we will like it!

During winter when it is cold, we leave opened bottles of red wine out of the fridge, but as soon as it starts to get a bit hotter we store it in the fridge. We seal it with a champagne cork because they are probably the best. You can get pumps that suck the air out which is probably what you really need for red wine, but with two of us it’s not such a problem! We have on many occasions actually put an unopened bottle in the fridge because it’s actually nice in a hot climate with a bit of a chill. (I can hear the collective gasp of the wine police!) Because of the heat here our wines tend have preservatives and the reds really don’t last more than a day or two even in the fridge. I’ve got a friend who can’t drink red wine from a bottle that has been opened the previous day as he unfailingly gets migraines!
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5 Will

I too have tried the occasional bottle priced much higher than my normal, under $10.00, budget. I also could not really detect any difference. Never had a headache from wine opened a day or two, just noticed the taste gets more bitter or acidic, or something.

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6 Binky

Every week it seems there’s a different study proving how beneficial these foods can be, wine, coffee, tea, chocolate, blueberries, olive oil. . . I’m fairly skeptical when someone’s trying to sell me something. Except for the dark chocolate, which is, no doubt, 100% true!
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7 Jan

Ah now Binky, who has got that much to gain from selling blueberries, except the farmers who deserve every penny they get? I personally applaud the clever scientists who make all of those listed foods “good for you”, phew, all these years I’ve been eating and drinking the right things and never knew it!!!!! It must have been pure instinct!!
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8 Tony McGurk

Except Snake Oil Binky. Every one knows for a certainty that snake oil is good for you. At least that’s what the snake oil salesman told me when I bought the last case off him…
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9 Will

Yeah Binky, if a study is ever published showing that dark chocolate is not good for you, I do not want to read it.

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10 Linda

Interesting post Will. From a Chinese medicine standpoint red wine is very warming. If you have heat in your body (eastern meaning of heat), you are unlikely to want red wine or anything else that is warming. Beer, although also warming, seems cooling because if it’s serving temperature, so can be appealing in warm months. You may be more active and warm through September. Studies do show it would take hundreds of bottles of red wine a day to deliver the resveratrol that lengthens life in animals. That said, the French Paradox suggests a daily glass or two of red wine still offers up health benefits. Red wine is thought to boost HDL levels and is linked to reduced risk of heart disease. It can also benefit to digestion. The downside of course is overdoing a good thing. Red wines can keep for days when re-corked. If my corked wine seems to go off, I make a stew or make risotto with it. A very tasty solution! cheers.
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11 Will

I do the same, Linda. I often add red wine to my crock pot during my winter cooking. I almost never use the crock pot in the summer for probably the same reasons I drink beer instead of wine then. I remember when I lived in San Francisco in my early 20’s and would often eat dinner with large groups of Italian and other European 1st and 2nd generation people in North Beach. The whole atmosphere of the dining and interaction was so different than anything I had ever experience. Red wine was always a part of that, but I bet the overall dining atmosphere was as contributory to health benefits as the red wine itself. Perhaps the French Paradox is related not only to the wine, but to the different style of dining?

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12 Linda

I do believe the paradox is about the whole meal, including the use of more actual WHOLE foods and nutritious local food. Europeans eat not just the meat, but the liver, heart and sweetbreads. They eat the chicken and the gizzards. They eat fish heads. They eat fat pigs, and use lard. Europeans traditionally use whole milk products, not skim. They are not afraid of fat. You get a lot of health benefits from these foods. Europeans grow produce in soil that is famously fertile, which improves nutrient content and flavor. They set aside time for meals, both the preparation and the consumption. They choose foods grown locally. And, yes they enjoy red wine with meals. It’s really the whole package. A great way to learn more about eating this way, as well as partaking of wonderful, slow meals with others is to join Slow Food: http://www.slowfood.com. Started in Italy in response to McDonalds sprouting up everywhere, this organization is gathering members across the globe. It is inexpensive to join, a good cause and fun to participate in the farm to fork events.
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13 Maureen

Hi Linda,

Interesting info. I’m curious… what is the Eastern meaning of ‘heat’?

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14 Linda

According to Chinese and Ayurvedic health systems, the body can become imbalanced with an excess of heat, cold, dampness, dryness or wind. Appropriately chosen foods provide balance. Heat signs might include feeling overly warm, a red complexion, temper, headaches, high blood pressure and other issues associated with heat. Signs of cold might include a pale complexion, depression, feeling chilled often and runny clear mucous. Dampness is characterized by overweight and fluid retention, etc. By choosing warming foods, you can balance a cold pattern. Likewise cooling foods soothe someone with too much heat. After years of nutrition counseling I have found this approach to be a more practical and useful way to determine one’s health and to choose the right foods than the western quantitative approach (calories, fat grams….). For more on this and how to use foods to balance your pattern, check this out: http://lindaprout.com/articles/goodfood_yinyang.html
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15 Will

Maureen, Linda does not mention it, but she wrote a terrific that covers that question and a lot more. I’ll post a link to it in a minute. I read it a couple of years ago and have incorporated many of her ideas into my diet, especially in my winter cooking.

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16 Klaus

My best trick to avoid a bottle of red wine going bad when not drinking the whole bottle the same day it is opened, is to share it with someone else – then it usually doesn’t last more than two days :)

I don’t drink much though, but I like red wine. Maybe when I go older I’ll make a habit of having a glass of red wine in the evenings…
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17 Will

Hi Klaus – Nobody else in this household likes red wine so I am on my own. The day after it is opened my red wine is still fine. But if I wait a day or two longed before finishing the bottle, I really notice the taste change.

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18 Jason

I love red wine and I almost drink it on every occasion. We often finish the whole bottle. When we don’t and there is little left on the bottle, it is fine with me to finish it the next day even though it isn’t as good the first time I opened it.

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19 Tony McGurk

I don’t drink that often. Alcohol I mean, obviously I drink to avoid that crazy little thing called death. My favourite wine is red lambrusco. I have a cask at home that I opened months ago & it’s still half full. Usually prefer a beer if we go out for dinner or after a day working in the garden
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20 Will

Months ago Tony??!! Just how big is that cask? You are heading into beer season down there right now. Your garden is just getting started, I bet. I like your comic blog, but I do miss you posts on your life in the underneath part of the world and in your garden.

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21 Will

By underneath I mean your geographical locale, not like the underbelly of society or anything. ;-)

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22 Will

Wow! Gone for a couple of days and look at the comments on this post. I just wrote it sort of stream of consciousness like it was on my mind, this being the season of transition from beer to wine and did not expect this. I really love it when readers like you all take what I throw up here and with your comments make the post one hundred times better and more useful. Thanks!

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23 Rhonda

Interesting discussion, but for me, I get headaches from red wine, so I simply don’t drink it.
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24 Lyn Ashby

Great article on the Red Wine! Red wine is fantastic if taken in moderation. It is good for the heart, contains antioxidants which are good for the skin. For me, this is the best alcoholic beverage. Thanks for the wonderful article.

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