Why Wine is Actually Your Friend

Wine is your friend. True story. When handled with care, chosen with discretion and savoured with food, friends and a healthy dose of responsibility (and let’s face it, a slither of stinky cheese doesn’t hurt!), wine can open a world of health benefits, writes Emma Bangay.

For centuries, wine has been used for its medicinal purposes. Grape cultivation can be traced back to sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC in Mesopotamia where royalty and those of high rank drank wine. (For the record, commoners drank beer!)

Ancient Egyptian tablets dating back to 2200 BC mention wine as a man-made medicine, and Hippocrates - oft referred to as the "father of western medicine" – promoted wine as a part of a healthy diet, proffering it to disinfect wounds, alleviate pain after childbirth and treat lethargy.

Today, wine and wellbeing are still inextricably linked. For example, the Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital in central France are currently planning to serve wine to terminally ill patients in their soon to open wine bar. Yes, you read correctly. Patients will be encouraged to enjoy medically supervised tastings with their visiting friends and families in a bid to improve their quality of life during their final days.

So it has been established that the health benefits of wine are reportedly vast and varied; from helping to reduce the risk of colon cancer, heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes. However, when drank incorrectly there is little conjecture that wine can also reduce the ability to function at the kids footy the next day, decipher whether a potential suitor is more George Clooney or Crusty The Clown and add the kilos and calories – without chewing on a thing.

So how can you choose the best grapes, greatest vintage and what chemicals should be avoided when you choose your desired drop?

Here are some top expert tips!

Why Wine?
Being derived from fruit with antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, wine origins are generally very healthy and the conditions in wine also ensures that there are no harmful bacteria that can live in them, explains Mac Forbes, vineyard owner, winemaker and grape grower in Victoria’s Healesville.

“Red wine has been shown to have antioxidants and naturally found chemicals such as resveratrol which have been shown to reduce heart disease,” he notes. “However, moderate consumption is key to any possible health benefits,” says Mac, adding that the general consensus is that two glasses of wine per day for men and one glass for females per day is considered a maximum healthy amount.

For more information, visit: www.WFA.org.au

Which Grape?
“In line with many broader conversations about farming and fruit and vegetable, the use of chemicals in farming - and therefore wines - is a real consideration,” says Mac, of choosing the healthiest option. “The real issue lies in the fact that labels don't provide a true reflection of what is added.

Organic and Biodynamic are two farming and winemaking approaches that reflect a growing interest from consumers in wines with less additives, however, many producers who don't label organic or biodynamic grow healthy fruit that can produce great wines also,” he adds. Therefore, it is best to do your own research on producers through asking questions at your local bottle shop or researching their websites.

Red or White?
Higher amounts of antioxidants and other compounds founds in skins and seeds (which play a part in red wines) result in red wine being considered better for health. However, white wine also demonstrates long-term benefits reducing heart disease and possibly other illnesses such as dementia, say experts. 

What to Avoid:
Legally, wineries are able to add a range of products to wine to prevent oxidization, but the most naturally derived drops are beautiful as they are. If you want to dodge preservatives, check for SO2 or 220 (Sulfur Dioxide - one additive which is very common to protect the wine from oxidation) on labels.

“Some people are highly reactive to SO2 and in that case they should seek Organic wines or SO2 free wines,” says Mac. “Oddly enough each grape variety has different chemical composition and for a small percentage of wine drinkers, some varieties can result in an allergic reaction while other varieties may have no negative effects - other than from the alcohol.”

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