Benefits of Wine in Health and Cooking

Pour yourself a glass, and learn about the health benefits of drinking wine and what to know about cooking with this type of alcohol. Cheers!

Three glasses of wine, each a different color. White, rose, and red

It seems like every week a new study comes out, addressing the various health properties (or lack thereof) of wine. One glass of wine a day? Heart-healthy! More than a few glasses of wine a week? You’re now at higher risk for certain cancers. But with a variety of studies and variables, the jury is still out regarding the health benefits of wine.

So, right off the bat: alcohol, in any form, is not a health product. It may come in combination with other compounds and ingredients that are, adding other benefits, but on its own, an alcoholic drink isn’t considered “healthy,” per se. But when used in moderation, like many things, it can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Those who drink wine, in particular, know that a good pairing greatly enhances the taste and experience of a special meal.

Red wine being poured into a glass

Red vs White

There are some wines that are better for you than others, depending on what your needs are. Overall, lower alcohol wines tend to have lower sugar, so they are better for those keeping an eye on glycemic indices. Sweeter wines will have more residual sugars imparting the taste.

High alcohol wines compared to low, will have higher calories. The Alcohol by Volume percentage (ABV) on the wine label indicates the amount per bottle, ranging from a low 9% up to 17% for dry wines. The ABV can help predict calories per glass of wine.

White wines have lower histamine levels than red wines too, so those with histamine sensitivities might spring for a bottle of white instead of going darker. But red wines have higher concentrations of healthy polyphenols, like resveratrol, which is said to have heart-healthy and cancer-preventing properties.

Natural Wines

Organic wines are also gaining popularity. Grapes grown with organic or biodynamic farming methods and made with low to no sulfites added are all the rage, often being discussed under the umbrella term “natural wine.”

Another benefit is that natural wines are also free of the more than 200 additives that are legal to add to wine to improve color, structure, texture, and preservation. They also often rely on spontaneous fermentation, which means no sugar is added to start the fermentation process, resulting in lower sugar and alcohol wines.

red grapes on a wooden plate with a glass of red wine in the background

How Wine is Made

When looking at a wine shelf, in general, you’ll find three colors of wine: white, rose, and red.

  • White wine is made with white grapes or red grapes with the skins completely removed.
  • Rose is made with a mix of red and white that sits on the skins for a short amount of time, imparting tannins, color, and flavor.
  • Red wine is made with red grapes that often have some “skin contact.”

There are also orange wines, made with white wines that sit on its skins for a while, giving the wine an orange hue and a complex flavor profile. The amount of time spent on skins and the type of grape used, as well as where it’s grown, greatly impacts flavor, texture and other properties.

Cooking with Wine

In general, cooking with wine means you want to add color and depth to your dish. Steer clear of dessert or sparkling wines, except when making something especially taste-driven or sweet, like a champagne vinaigrette. Overall, you should stick with dry wines or wines with less sugar, unless the recipe calls for it.

Good wine varieties that tend to impart drier wines include: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay for white and Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese for red. Roses will include both red and white grapes, so look for ones that include those varieties.

Overall, cook with wines you would drink–there are plenty of inexpensive wines that are suitable for both purposes. Stay clear away from “cooking wines” sold in stores. They typically are loaded with sodium and are of very low quality.

Beef, lamb, and game generally are cooked with red wine while poultry, pasta’s, and fish are cooked in white wines. Roses can go with anything, to lighten up a heavy meat dish or add an extra kick to a chicken dish.

Recipes to try

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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