Red or White?

I drink wine.  Everyday.  I am not ashamed.  A strong-process life must include joy.

Lucky for me, in addition to the happiness it brings to my taste buds, there are endless tangible benefits to drinking wine in moderation - cardiovascular disease prevention, cancer prevention (breast, lung, colon), decreased blood pressure, improved cholesterol profiles, prolonged life expectancy, increased sexual health…the list goes on.

The dilemma really is:  Red or White?

Maybe because people think I am such a connoisseur study nutrition, I actually get asked this question quite a bit.  Due to the constant debate between pop-culture articles that tout the health benefits of wine while simultaneously vilifying the ingestion of carbohydrates, people are confused (shocking).

The answer is quite simple.  Red in the winter.  White in the summer.   Done.

The truth is, red and white wine are both remarkably beneficial to your health (in moderation...binging is so high school, people).  The antioxidants, called polyphenols, that wine contain include the celebrities: resveratrol and quercetin (mostly in red), as well as the more obscure cinnamic acids, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol (mostly in white).

White - More Tyrosol

There are a few differences, however, having nothing to do with the sugar content (there are actually less carbohydrates in white wine).

Red wine is red because of the length of time that the skins, stems and seeds of the grapes are allowed to sit in the fermenting liquid.  White wine gets its flavor mostly from the pulp of the grapes.  Because of this, it has been widely assumed that white wine was less beneficial.  While it has been  demonstrated that the grape skins contain many of these powerful antioxidants, it has actually been recently shown that the pulps of the grapes also contain powerful bioactive phytochemicals.

Here’s where it kind of gets interesting.

The phenols contained in red wine from the grape skins are big (on a molecular scale...).  So, they tend to get absorbed into the bloodstream a bit less and more slowly.  Those that are in white wine are smaller and get absorbed quickly.  When scientists do tests after red and white consumption, they can see a spike in blood antioxidants within about an hour after drinking a glass of Tuscan White (Trebbiano & Malvasia), but it takes ~2hours to see a spike after Chianti.

Travelling Sommelier

(As a humorous aside:  The Italian authors of this particular study state that their white wine was made with an “ancient Tuscany procedure rather than a French procedure” which was clearly the reason for the exceptional results.  Their findings were repeated, however, with another Italian white (Greco di Tufo) utilizing the same fermentation process - where the juice is extracted from the grape under nitrogen in a pneumatic press, preventing oxidation.   There are also studies that say aging in oak barrels make help to increase white wine’s antioxidant capabilities.  So maybe a good oaky Chardonnay is also a solid choice.)

While the battle between the French and Italians for wine supremacy will reign on forever, the processing of white wine actually does appear to make a significant difference in health benefit.  Very “young” white wines are typically lower in antioxidant concentration, and may not be beneficial to health (I’m looking at you, Two Buck Chuck…).  However, in these studies, it also appeared as though the overall health of the white wine drinkers was questionable - higher BMI’s and increased rates of smoking.  More taste testing is warranted…

Bottom line, drinking a glass or two at night of good quality wine - red or white - is not only beneficial to your health, but well deserved at the end of a long day.  But wino's beware - more than a modest glass or two has been shown to increase your risk of all these diseases you are trying to avoid.  

Also, don’t forget that each 5oz drink (this is a SMALL pour in those huge red wine bowls glasses) contains ~125 calories.  You need to account for this 250 calories in your day, well deserved or not!

My Personal Heaven.