There’s nothing like a glass of wine to top off the day, especially with all the varieties available. Additionally, relaxing with a glass of your favorite pinot after a busy day might just make you feel good. So what’s so bad about a little indulgence? As it turns out, maybe nothing.
In fact, wine may actually provide distinct health benefits. Wine is rich in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, and even the alcohol—in small amounts—might be good for us. But before you hit the liquor store, remember to be cautious; any health benefits only come from careful drinking. In the case of wine consumption, too much of a good thing is bad for us and erases any potential health benefits.
So how do we choose what to do? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Like so many other things, it all comes down to moderation. However, the more we learn about wine—including what’s in it and how it’s made—the more appealing it becomes.
The discussion of wine’s health profile comes down to a handful of compounds called polyphenols; these antioxidants help us ward off disease. Specifically, polyphenols fight off free radicals, aberrant molecules that can damage cells right down to the DNA. As a result, antioxidants can protect us from cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative conditions.
“Wine has many health attributes,” says cosmetic and vascular surgeon Walter Tom, MD. “With modest consumption, the antioxidants in wine have been shown to protect the heart, preserve the integrity of living cells, and repair ongoing damage from the aging process. We know that antioxidants are good for the skin, and there is even an association with increased longevity.”
Beyond antioxidants and other healthy compounds, wine may provide an often discounted benefit: enhancing our overall well-being.
“We know that wine contributes to improved quality of life and a well-balanced sense of happiness,” says Dr. Tom. “That feeling is not an illusion; it’s actually good for us, reducing stress and helping our bodies maintain balance.”
Philosophy and Production
There is more to this sense of wellbeing than the contents in the wine bottle, though—let’s consider how the product is made. A growing number of vineyards are embracing biodynamic winemaking, which combines organic practices with a spiritual approach toward farming.
The idea behind biodynamic winemaking is that the process is more than just the grapes: It’s everything involved in growing them. The soil, weather, environment around the vineyard, and even the phase of the moon when the vines are planted are all important factors. For many, biodynamics evokes a more natural, holistic approach to winemaking.
“In our pursuit of fine wine, we follow agricultural, winemaking, and business practices that are good for earth and vine, good for the farmer, as well as our colleagues and customers,” says Chris Benziger of Benziger Family Winery located in Glen Ellen, California.
Benziger believes that biodynamic farmers must have an intimate connection with their vineyard. They must proactively stop mold, insects, and other problems without chemical solutions.
“We believe wine quality improves when we use natural farming practices and reduce artificial inputs,” says Benziger. “Healthier soils and environments grow better vines that produce distinctive wines.”
More people continue to embrace biodynamic wines for both their flavor and their low impact on the environment. Many agree these wines evoke a sense of place—soil, sun, climate—that brings new dimensions to a wine’s complexity.
“We don’t have quantifiable proof that biodynamic wines are good for your health,” says Benziger, “but we definitely believe they taste better, are more pure, and offer wine drinkers a more authentic representation of vineyard, vintage, and varietal.”
Dr. Tom is one of Benziger’s many supporters. He maintains that drinking wine that is so mindfully crafted provides a range of lifestyle benefits.
“I prefer to drink biodynamic wines for their purity, as well as the other benefits associated with an organic way of living,” says Dr. Tom. “And it doesn’t hurt that they’re good for my heart.”