Drinking a glass of wine from time to time is fine for most people. In fact, wine in moderation can even have some health benefits. If you’re looking for the healthiest wine, you’ll want to brush up on some healthy wine basics. We’ve got you covered.
The 4 Keys to Healthy Wine
You’ll need to become a bit of a sleuth when it comes to wine labels to find the type of wine that’s best for you. Sugar content, antioxidant activity, and alcohol by volume (ABV) are good places to start.
It’s also important that you indulge in wine in moderation. As alcohol consumption goes up, any positive benefits go down, but we’ll get into that later.
1. Low Sugar
Wines high in sugar aren’t just bad for those watching their sugar intake. High-sugar wines are also usually higher in calories, which can cause weight gain over time and bust a diet quickly.
Dessert wines and sweet wines are the most obvious culprits for wines with high levels of sugar content, but some zinfandels and grenache varietals also pack quite a bit of residual sugar.
Which wine has the least amount of sugar? Wines that have the least amount of sugar are dry reds, dry whites, and low-sugar champagne or sparkling wines.
If you’re not into the tannins in dry reds, chardonnays and wines with high acidity like sauvignon blanc are usually low-sugar options in the white wine category. Seek out the “brut” label if you want something bubbly with less residual sugar.
When you’re looking into the sugar content of wine, you’ll need to look out for added sugar, too.
Residual sugar is the sugar left behind during the natural fermentation process. On top of the natural sweetness in wines like Moscato or Riesling, some winemakers add sugar during fermentation for a sweeter end product and boost the alcohol content.
These wines aren’t just bad for you; they’re usually lower in quality, too.
2. High Antioxidants
Everything you’ve read about how wine can be good for you links back to the antioxidants found in wine. There are several different types of antioxidants, or polyphenols, in wine, but resveratrol gets the most attention when it comes to the health benefits of wine.
Which wine has the highest amount of antioxidants? Red wines like pinot noir have the highest amount of antioxidants, thanks to the red grape skins used in the fermentation process.
The healthiest red wines boast high levels of flavonoids and resveratrol, a natural polyphenol and anti-inflammatory linked to several health benefits.
By the way, if you can find some red wines from Sardinia or southwestern France, research shows those are the real MVPs of least harmful red wines.
What are the benefits of drinking wine? The benefits of drinking wine with high antioxidant activity are:
- improved heart health
- reduced oxidative stress
- lower blood pressure
Resveratrol may also support weight loss.
What is the healthiest wine for weight loss? The healthiest wine for weight loss is red wine, thanks to the potential metabolism boost you get from its heart-healthy resveratrol.
Note: If you’re looking to limit your drinking, you don’t need wine for a dose of those antioxidants. Grapes, grape juice, blueberries, and peanuts all contain high levels of resveratrol.
3. Low Alcohol
The average wine has about 12% ABV. That’s the amount the CDC and other health groups use as a standard for a glass of wine.
Anything about that means you should drink less of it, especially if you’re dealing with fortified wines in the 20% ABV range. Fortified wines like ports and sherries have been fermented with distilled spirits, like brandy.
The lower the alcohol content, the better the wine is for you long-term.
Besides the obvious drawbacks of drinking to excess over time, wines with higher alcohol content are usually higher in calories.
Any benefits from drinking healthier wine options diminish when you drink to excess. The CDC defines moderate drinking as one standard drink or less per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. A standard drink is about 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of regular beer.
If you prefer fortified wine, reduce that to about 3 ounces per serving.
Anything beyond those moderate drinking levels dramatically reduces any improved health outcomes from those good things about wine.
Let’s look at the relationship between heart health and alcohol as an example. Moderate amounts of alcohol seem to improve cardiovascular outcomes.
Red wine can lower bad cholesterol levels, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. It can reduce your risk of blood clots by opening up your blood vessels for healthier circulation.
It can offer some protection against a variety of heart conditions, like atherosclerosis.
Drinking to excess can cause the opposite when it comes to your heart. Too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure and increase your chance of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and stroke.
Whether you’re reaching for a pinot grigio or a malbec, always practice drinking in moderation. There is no healthy wine if you drink too much of it.
5 of the Healthiest Traditional Wines
Generally, the healthiest wines out there fit one of the criteria we’ve already shared. They’re low in sugar and high in antioxidants. The lower the alcohol content, the better. Let’s take a look at a few specific varietals that may be better for you than the others.
1. Pinot Noir
Pinot noir’s high resveratrol content, low residual sugar, and lower amount of sulfites make it one of the best red wines out there for the health-conscious wine drinker.
The versatile red wine also has a lower ABV than many of its bolder counterparts, making it a popular choice among those who want to stick to wine in moderation.
2. Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet sauvignon tops the list of healthiest wines for its high flavonoid content plus the resveratrol you get with a deep red wine.
Much like resveratrol, flavonoids are plant-based polyphenols. They’re typically found in dark-colored foods like berries, red cabbage, kale, and healthy beverages like tea and red wine.
Flavonoids like anthocyanins and procyanidins, 2 types found in red wine, boost your immune system with their anti-inflammatory effects. Some research shows they can fight back against cancer cells.
Bone dry wines like cabernet sauvignon are also typically lower in sugar than even dry varietals like merlot or Sangiovese. Just be careful with the serving sizes when sipping on bold cabernets. The ABV on these is often over 13%, above the average for red wines.
If you prefer white wine, choose a varietal like a chardonnay with a lower sugar content over rieslings and chenin blanc varietals that taste much sweeter.
While you won’t be getting as much antioxidant activity as you would with red wines, you’re still being mindful about the ingredients in your wine.
If you’re just not into the buttery finish on many chardonnays, pinot grigio and viognier are dry, low-sugar alternatives with a more floral aftertaste.
Rose wine is better for you than white wine when it comes to resveratrol content, thanks to its pink hue. The more color in a wine, the more interaction it’s had with grape skins in the fermentation process.
You can make a similar case for orange wine, a unique wine type that is becoming more popular in the wine world. It’s not as antioxidant-heavy as red wine, but it’s had more skin contact with grapes than white varietals.
Choose a dry rosé wine for a low-sugar option with fewer calories.
5. Brut Champagne
Dry champagne or sparkling wine has fewer calories overall than most still wines, which makes it a popular choice for wine drinkers seeking a lighter beverage.
If you’re not sure whether the sparkling wine you’re considering is the dry variety, look for “brut” on the label. Brut means dry in French.
Pro Tip: mix your bubbles with a zero-calorie sparkling soda for a refreshing wine spritzer that’s lower in calories and lower on alcohol content.
The Healthiest Wine
You don’t need to drink alcohol at all to enjoy all of the health benefits of wine. We’re not talking about snacking on a handful of grapes, either.
Non-alcoholic wine will always be the healthiest wine out there because you don’t have to worry about any of the adverse effects of alcohol as you sip.
- Red wine procyanidins and vascular health
- The effects of resveratrol intake on weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of venous thrombosis
- The red wine phenolics trans-resveratrol and quercetin block human platelet aggregation and eicosanoid synthesis: implications for protection against coronary heart disease
- Contribution of Red Wine Consumption to Human Health Protection
- Flavonoids in Cancer and Apoptosis