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Identifying Wines for the Health-Conscious Drinker   

Welcome to 2019, folks! The new year is a time that many of us re-center and make varying degrees of effort to create a healthier reality for ourselves. Wine is perceived to be the healthier choice among many of those who enjoy adult beverages. There are a few ways that wines relate to health. Whether you are looking to combat the aging process, are trying to lose weight, or have found that the sulfites in wine have a negative effect on you, we have tips to help you get the most out of your glass of wine this new year. 

The most commonly touted health benefit that is credited to wine is the power of its compounds to slow the aging process and keep the cardiovascular system healthy. This is mainly due to the presence of antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent the breakdown of molecules, and therefore prevent the breakdown of the cells in the body. Most of the antioxidants in wine come from the seeds and skins of the grapes used. For this reason, wines made from grapes with thick skin, such as spicy Malbec and jammy Petite Sirah, are going to have the highest levels of antioxidants. Tannat, a more esoteric variety of grape, also boasts some of the highest levels of antioxidants, but can be harder to find. You can expect a very dry wine with smoky red fruit flavors from this grape. If you can’t stand big, dry wines, but still want an antioxidant rich wine, reach for an approachable Pinot Noir. 

Pinot Noir is also a fantastic wine for those looking for a drink low in calories and sugars. This wine has only .68 grams of sugar per ounce, and has also been shown to help increase insulin sensitivity. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah are also good low sugar red wine options. Though rosé wine does tend to be semi-sweet, French options from Provence or Languedoc still have beautiful aromas and a crisp finish. For low-sugar white wines, opt for a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, or a tangy, fragrant Italian Pinot Grigio. An effervescent Brut is your best option if you are looking for bubbles. All one needs to remember when shopping for low sugar wines is to look for the driest options available. 

So, you’ve found a wine that’s low in sugar and high in antioxidants, but every time you drink wine you get a terrible headache. Worse, some people even experience asthma symptoms when they drink wine. These symptoms may point to a sulfite sensitivity or allergy. Though it is estimated that only about 1 percent of people in the United States suffer from sulfite sensitivity, that means that more than three million people deal with this issue in our country. Sulfites are compounds that are naturally produced by fermentation, and are sometimes added as a preservative. All wines, cheeses and beers have some level of naturally occurring sulfites. In fact, dried fruits contain 10 times the sulfites of wines. If you are one of the few that are afflicted with this sensitivity, there are a few things to know. First is that white wines are not necessarily lower in sulfites than red wines. In fact, many white wines contain more. Because red wines contain tannins (another natural preservative), and almost always undergo malolactic fermentation, they require less additional sulfites to prevent oxidation. One should look out for wines that say “no sulfites added,” or “NSA” on the label. Though NSA wines are delicate and spoil quickly, if it is consumed within 18 months of being bottled, it should still be good. For those sensitive to sulfites, an internet search of “NSA wines” will give you a good starting point to finding something that agrees with your palate. Because these wines do spoil quickly, it is advisable to buy from the producer, if possible. 

Wine is an excellent option for those who want to be conscientious of their health when indulging in an alcoholic drink. Though there are different health angles to consider when doing so, it is safe to say that wine can be a relatively agreed upon tonic when enjoyed in moderation. With that said, I believe a toast to your health is in order! Happy New Year! QCBN 

By Clay Lightfoot 

 

 

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