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How wine affects your body

A guest article by Estelle Platini from Cellarer.com. [There is another article by Estelle on the types of red wines.]

There has been much suggestion that the drinking of wine is somehow “good for you.”

While it might calm your nerves a bit, what many want to say is that, for whatever reason, it can protect you from heart disease, perhaps by lowering cholesterol. Some point to those parts of the world where people eat high fat diets, drink lots of wine, and live to a very old age.

At this stage of knowledge, it probably isn’t a good idea to start drinking to obtain hypothetical protective effects. Whether it helps you if you are drinking is controversial. Most people will agree that if you drink “too much,” it is not good for you (for a variety of reasons).


Getting drunk happens in some social circumstances — like the end of college. The liver filters alcohol and sends it to the blood stream. This notably affects your brain (and damages it a little for many weeks). You should switch to water when you are feeling dizzy. In any case, do not ever drive a car (or a bike) after a glass.

Lead in wine

Lead-acid batteriesSome people are concerned about high levels of lead in wine. A possible reason is that the high acidity levels in wine help to cause lead to leach out of things that it touches. Lead “capsules” (the foil at the top of the bottle) have all but disappeared from new bottles of wine for this reason. You can wipe the top of a bottle with a damp cloth before pouring if you have an older bottle with a lead capsule. There is some reason to believe that lead can be leached out of lead crystal glasses.

Whether this occurs in significant numbers in the short run I do not at this time know, but I have read some material that indicates it is not a good idea to store an alcoholic beverage in crystal decanters for long periods of time.

Other negative effects

Addition to alcohol is called alcoholism. It pushes you to continue taking alcohol.
Alcohol can damage your liver.

Allergies, sulphites, natural wines

The biggest complaint here is that some people develop headaches from drinking wine. There are several proposed causes. One is that sulphites added by the producer (or can be naturally present in lesser amounts) cause the allergic reaction. Furthermore, it has been suggested that cheaper wines are likely to have more sulphites as a cheap substitute for careful grape selection and winemaking. Some people say that it is only red wine that causes them a problem. Sulphites are present in both red and white wines. Another possible cause is anthocyanin pigments which are what makes “red” grapes red. These are also present in blue cheese. If both cause you problems, maybe you’ve found a reason?

Solutions suggested by some (but not recommended or approved by me in any way) are: Drink lots of water before drinking the wine. Take a pain-killer first. The problem with this last one is that is known to enhance the alcoholic affect. The best answer is, if this is a problem, don’t drink wine.

While there are wines that claim to be sulphite free, some people will tell you that this is not possible, as sulphites exist in nature on the grape. However, the amount would be less if not artificially introduced. The French Scout details explanations on organic winemaking and sulphite use.

But since sulfur dioxide is often used to control how the wine is produced (getting rid of unwanted yeasts, molds and bacteria), some feel that you may not get as good a wine. United States law requires that wine with over 10 parts per million of sulphites state that the wine “contains” sulphites.

Yet some wineries produce wine with very little sulphites. If this is important to you, you should look for sulphite-free wines near you.

Calories in wine

Most of the calories in wine come from alcohol, though some additional calories come from the “food” that came from the fruit (proteins, carbohydrates [like sugar], etc.). Since some wines are more dry than sweet (that is, they have less sugar), those wines would have a little less calories.
Also, wines vary in alcohol content, which would, of course, also affect the number of calories from alcohol. The United States Department of Agriculture says that 100 grams of “table wine” (12.2 percent alcohol by volume) has 85 calories while 100 grams of “dessert wine” (18.8 percent alcohol by volume) has 135 calories.

In any event, a pretty good rule of thumb is that table wine has approximately 25 calories per ounce. When cooking with wine, you can end up boiling out the alcohol. The result is that the calorie impact from the wine is drastically reduced.

Pregnancy and wine

Heavy alcohol use in pregnancy can lead to birth defects. Some doctors feel that the safest course is not to drink any alcohol at all during pregnancy. Others feel that light, occasional drinking has not been shown to be harmful. Check with your doctor but take your own decision!

Wine as a sleeping aid

The general consensus is that alcohol might help you fall asleep immediately but that you’ll be up in the middle of the night. A warm glass of milk seems to be a better idea.

Tannins, resveratrol

Polyphenols and beneficial tannins are found in some young red wines.

It has been reported that resveratrol may induce a number of beneficial health effects, such as anti-cancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and life-prolonging effects. Beware that some of these studies used animal subjects (e.g. rats). Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and is a constituent of red wine but, based on extrapolation from animal trials, apparently not in sufficient amounts to explain the “French paradox”. The French paradox is that the incidence of coronary heart disease is relatively low in southern France despite high dietary intake of saturated fats.

Here is more about the chemicals in wine and their effect on the body.

One may also discuss such a thing as sustainable wineries. Some elements of wine can be beneficial, such as resveratrol or OPCs.

Have you read Estelle’s list of red types of wines? Or Felicien’s primer on red types of wines (per variety and district)? Or Where to find natural wine?

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