News flash! Wine is good for you.
Thursday, November 2, 2000
Today''s most palatable mantra for healthy living, a glass of red wine with dinner, is an easy pill for most Americans to swallow. But this healthful remedy is usually the first to take the blame: Those three glasses of Chardonnay during cocktail hour didn''t give you a headache and dry mouth the next morning; it was that one glass of red with dinner. You know, the one with all those sulfites. Too often I hear "I''m allergic to wine. My system can only handle 7-up," or "I stick to scotch because wine gives me heartburn." Several scotches would give even the most stubborn Scotsman heartburn!
In Europe, wine at the table is more common than water, but in this country we can''t seem to get beyond the dense fog of misconception to the sunnier, healthier side of the street. A sip of wine gets your digestive juices flowing and primes your palate by tuning in your sensory receptors. Sipping wine throughout your meal enhances your sense of well being, and may even slow the pace at which you are eating. You feel sated earlier on, which could save you hundreds of calories: a 5-ounce glass of wine has only 60 to 80 calories. Consuming wine with fatty foods facilitates in their digestion as well.Not only is wine good for your digestion, it actually contains beneficial trace vitamins and minerals. Wine does also contain traces of sulfites (mistakenly blamed for wine hangovers) which are a natural byproduct of grape fermentation.
For the rest of us, look at the other factors. Did you eat while drinking? How much did you drink? Was it red, white, sweet, sparkling? Did you drink plenty of water before retiring? Note your own personal sensitivities, but don''t write off this delicious nectar in one fell swoop. Wine is an alcoholic beverage, and as such, is dehydrating. Most of the complaints from wine newbies are simply reflective of a state of hyper-dehydration.
Wine is good for you in moderation if consumed with food, if you enjoy relatively good health, and if you are not predisposed to alcoholism. Red wine, in particular, has the added bonus of phenolics, cancer-fighting antioxidants that may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and to lower cholesterol. A study conducted by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture found that those phenols containing the most potent disease-fighting compounds are found in their highest concentration in Pinot Noir, especially in those from Burgundy. Merlot came in second, especially those from the south of France, and Cabernet Sauvignon, especially those from Washington state, came in third.
When coming from the grape skins, these phenols are a form of tannins. The other form of tannins in wine is from oak barrels; these are called wood tannins and can leave your palate feeling like you just chewed on a 2-by-4. Wine tannins give a mouth-puckering quality that seems, at first, unpleasant. But at the table, those wine tannins provide a pleasant contrast to the richness of your meal.
America''s medical establishment has finally acknowledged that wine is a part of a healthy lifestyle. And it recommends a glass a day (two for men) with a meal, even to senior citizens. Remember, though, that men and women have very different constitutions. Check with your physician to be sure of what your ideal healthy consumption amount is. Ancestry plays into the formula as well. If your forebears drank very little, there may have been a good reason. If they drank a lot, you may have a higher tolerance. Be extra careful if this is the case.
Catherine Fallis is a Master Sommelier.