My Sicilian grandfather lived to be 93 years old. He had brothers who lived to be 100 and 97. One thing they all had in common was they all drank homemade red wine with lunch and dinner. Everyday. Heredity and their Mediterranean diet had something to do with their longevity, but surely their daily consumption of red wine contributed to their good health, especially their cardiovascular health.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you make your own wine. I’m not suggesting that you have wine with lunch every day, either, although that may make those boring post-lunch meetings a little more entertaining. But I am suggesting that you consider enjoying a glass of red wine every day for the health benefits.
If you are thinking about working red wine into your lifestyle for better health, there are few things you should know before you start.
Health Benefits of Red Wine
According to the American Heart Association, studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption may have health benefits, including lowering the risk of dying from heart disease, raising “good” HDL cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of diabetes.
Red wine may be good for the heart because it contains antioxidants, which may protect the body from oxidative stress. Free radicals produced by the body create oxidative stress. The body naturally produces antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals, but sometimes the body can’t produce enough to combat the free radicals, causing oxidative stress. Long-term oxidative stress without enough antioxidants increases signs of aging and contributes to conditions such as chronic inflammation and high blood pressure. Antioxidants are important for maintaining good health because they protect your cells from damage. Red wine is special because it contains an antioxidant called resveratrol. Some studies have shown resveratrol can reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
The antioxidants found in wine are polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants. One health study concluded the polyphenols found in red wine can lower blood pressure.
Lab studies have shown resveratrol may reduce the risk of cancer. While the studies are inconclusive, research has shown those who drink red wine have a lower risk of colon cancer and prostate cancer.
In one study, wine reduced the risk of diabetes for both men and women.
Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a lower risk of inflammation and blood clotting, which can lower the risk of heart disease. But other studies found no benefits from resveratrol in preventing heart disease.
What About White Wine?
Red wine is the better choice when it comes to heart health. Red wine is made by fermenting the grape juice with the grape skins, while the grape skins are removed prior to fermentation to make white wine. Many of the antioxidants found in red wine are taken from the thick skins of the red grapes.
Although white wine may not have the same health benefits as red wine, research has shown that white wine contains its own set of unique antioxidants.
Research has shown that drinking white wine may improve cardiovascular health. In one study, researchers followed patients with type 2 diabetes, and after 2 years, they found those who drank white wine saw improvements in cholesterol and glucose control.
Another study found that aged white wine consumption helped to repair endothelial cells lining blood vessels. These cells regulate exchanges between the bloodstream and surrounding tissues, a vital function of the cardiovascular system. It also decreased the presence of inflammatory cells.
While white and red wine can both bolster lung function, white wine seems to have a greater positive impact on it. A University of Buffalo study looking at lifetime alcohol consumption showed wine drinkers had the highest concentration of protective antioxidants in their blood. A further analysis of alcohol intake and lung function showed lifetime intake of wine had the strongest associations with certain lung functions, and the association was stronger for white wine.
Moderate Consumption of Red Wine
Drink red wine in moderation to maximize its health benefits.
Federal guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend that men should drink no more than two glasses of wine per day, and women should drink no more than one. A glass of wine equals four ounces. Drinking too much wine or alcohol can cause a myriad of health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and weight gain.
Avoid alcohol completely if you:
- Are pregnant
- Have a personal or strong family history of alcoholism
- Have a liver or pancreas disease associated with alcohol use
- Have heart failure or a weak heart
- Take certain medications
You should talk to your health care provider if you have questions about the benefits and risks of drinking red wine.
What Are the Best Red Wines to Drink for Heart Health?
There are countless varieties of red wine, but some are better for your heart than others. The healthiest red wines share a few common traits.
Dry red wines have the most health benefits. Dry wines are fermented longer than sweet wines, therefore they don’t contain residual sugar.
Red wines with high tannins usually have greater health benefits. Tannins come from grape skins, and as I mentioned previously, the thick grape skins contain the beneficial polyphenols.
There are countless varieties of red wine, but some are better for your heart than others. One thing to remember is that you can get good wines at reasonable prices. Budget friendly wines are just as good for your health as expensive wines!
18 Best Red Wines for a Healthy Heart
Pinot Noir is the healthiest red wine you can drink because it has high levels of resveratrol but low levels of sugar. Pinot Noir is also a delicate, lighter-bodied red than most red wines. Unlike other red wines, it is best enjoyed slightly chilled. Because it is a lighter red and served chilled, I think it is more appealing to people who usually prefer white wine to red.
Meiomi Pinot Noir is a highly rated wine at a reasonable price. Characterized by eclectic flavors and aromas of strawberry, black cherry, plum and potpourri with notes of forest floor, mushroom or black tea, the best California Pinot noir boast a supple texture and good acidity, giving them the ability to improve with age.
Zinfandel is often thought of as California’s flagship grape. In California, Zinfandel is the second most-planted red grape, after Cabernet Sauvignon, with more than 50,000 acres, and it has been around since the 1850’s at least. Although made all around the world, California versions often show blueberry, raspberry, boysenberry, and peach yogurt flavors. Pepper, spice and a brambly character commonly make an appearance as well.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, identified a group of chemicals in red wine linked to the ability to lower cholesterol. Called saponins, these compounds are believed to be just as important as antioxidant resveratrol. Among red wines tested, Zinfandel contained the highest levels.
Michael David Winery Earthquake Zinfandel 2019 is a rich Zinfandel that offers “over the top concentration and intensity that will leave your taste buds trembling! Opening with luscious red fruit and vanilla bean aromas, this full-bodied Zin oozes flavors of raspberry jam, black licorice and tobacco carried though by a fruit laced finish that lingers until the next quake.”
Malbec wine contains four times the antioxidant content as Merlot and nearly twice as much as Cabernet Sauvignon, therefore it’s a great choice for both heart health and immune health. Grown mostly in Argentina and France, Malbec grapes create a bold wine.
Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2019 is a highly rated wine at a great price. “Beautiful deep violet color with exploding aromas of blackberry, black cherry and blueberries framed by hints of spices and mint.”
Merlot is a medium-bodied red wine with notes of black cherry and plum. Merlot has high levels of resveratrol and procyanidin which help to lower cholesterol and promote cardiovascular health.
Decoy California Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is ripe and smooth. This wine shows pleasing aromas and flavors of warm blackberry pie and other bright fruits. Enjoy it with a grilled hamburger top with gruyere cheese.
Cabernet Sauvignon, in addition to being one of the best wines for heart health, helps to stimulate the production of a protein that plays a role in cell health. Cabernet Sauvignon contains high levels of procyanidins, which improve blood flow and reduce the risk of inflammation and blood clots.
Vina Robles Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is a rich and satisfying Cab, starting with aromas of roasted boysenberry, cocoa, violet and toasty oak on the nose. The palate is filled with rich black fruit, mocha and espresso flavors that are wrapped in firm but balanced tannins.
Shiraz is the best known and most widely planted variety of grape in Australia. It is known to contain flavonoids, resveratrol, and quercetin. As I mentioned previously, flavonoids contain health benefits like reducing risk of heart disease, preventing cancer, and preventing strokes. Resveratrol also possesses a host of benefits such as protecting cardiovascular health, anti-ageing properties, and much more. Quercetin is known stop the growth of cancer cells and destroy the development of tumors.
Wine Spectator says of Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz 2020, ”Ripe and generous, but the aromatics take this to the next level.” This one is a little more pricey than my other recommendations but it’s worth it!
The Nero d’Avola red grape is known as “the King of Sicily” and is one of the Mediterranean’s most regal red wines. This is a lesser known red but it’s every bit as good as the more popular reds.
Donnafugata Sherazade 2020, with bright ruby red color with violet reflections, presents a fruity bouquet with hints of plum and cherry flanked by delicate spicy notes (black pepper) and balsamic hints. It goes well with fish or pasta with red sauce.
Tannat is not a popular variety, but it has one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all red wines. Along with high tannins and acidity, high levels of antioxidants will allow the wine to age for quite a while.
Artesana Tannat Reserva 2020 is a full-bodied wine from Uruguay. This is a versatile wine, pairing well with pasta and meat dishes including beef, lamb and pork.
In addition to resveratrol, Petite Sirahs have good amounts of procyanidin. This flavonoid protects against cardiovascular disease and promotes heart health. It has also been known to block nitrosamines, a carcinogenic, work in conjunction with vitamin c to lower breast cancer risk, and overall aid in the protection of healthy cells.
Two Angels Petite Sirah 2018 is a reasonably priced, highly rated California wine. It is very dark purple in color and boasts savory aromas of ripe dark berries, cherries, plum, rich toasty notes, with a hint of roast game.
In addition to the heart health benefits that other red wines possess, Chianti also contains alpha hydroxy acids which are very beneficial to your skin. Alpha hydroxy acids are both a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Some people even apply Chianti to their face, believing that it helps fight acne, cleans out pores and helps prevent future breakouts!
Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 is a deep ruby red wine. Its complex and sophisticated aroma reminds of fruits on a first step, gradually opening up and displaying spices and liquorice. On the palate it is fleshy, harmonious and full-bodied, with a long persistence. An excellent pairing with roast meat, game and aged cheeses.
Similar in taste to Chianti and Merlot, Sangiovese is a good choice for those looking for the health benefits of the antioxidants found in red wine.
Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino 2019 is a Sangiovese from Tuscany. Intense ruby red color. Fruity bouquet with red berry notes. Very well structured, yet soft, long-lasting flavor with smooth, velvety tannins.
Primitivo is a dark-skinned red wine grape that is most compared to a Zinfandel. These grapes are extremely popular in Italy, and they are the third most farmed grape in the Puglia region in southern Italy. The Puglia region of Italy produces some fantastic wines.
Because Primitivo is so close to Zinfandel, one can conclude that it has about the same health benefits.
Tormaresca Torcicoda Primitivo 2019 is a very nice wine, one I’ll take over Malbec or Merlot any day. Torcicoda 2019 is an intense ruby red color with light violet hues. On the nose it delivers intense fruity notes of morello cherries and plums that merge with sweet spicy sensations of licorice and vanilla. Its entry on the palate is soft and generous with an elegant tannic texture that accompanies its remarkable structure.
Sagrantino is another antioxidant-rich wine from Italy. According to a study by the Edmund Mach Foundation, it may contain the highest amount of polyphenols of any red wine. The structure in Sagrantino’s tannin is similar to that of cacao, whose health benefits are well known.
Lunelli Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino 2016 is a terrific red wine from the Umbria region of Italy. This wine has a distinct creaminess on the palate, along with very powerful, mellow fruit. The finish is long and persistent, with precisely defined tannins of rare finesse, elegance and gentleness.
Barbera grapes contain a relatively high concentration of transpiceatannol, a stilbene with even higher antioxidant properties than resveratrol. This means Barbera grapes could be a source of health-promoting molecules.
Pio Cesare Barbera d’Alba 2020 is a medium-bodied Barbera with notes of crushed berries, spices, roses and hints of soil.
Bordeaux is a popular red wine from Bordeaux, France. Over 90% of Bordeaux wines are red wines made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, therefore Bordeaux can be expected to have health benefits similar to both.
Chateau Fonbadet B de Fonbadet 2019 is a lovely aromatic wine with floral notes, fresh raspberry and cassis, then to a supple palate dressed with dark chocolate, red pepper and delicious pure fruit. Light on its feet but bursting with flavor!
Lambrusco is a very affordable red wine from Italy.
Lombardini Reggiano Lambrusco Rosso Amabile C’era Una Volta is a semi-sweet and semi-sparkling red. On the nose intense and pleasant, with a hint of soft red berries. On the palate, a good body with a balance, having a nice roundness.
Nebbiolo is a red wine from Piedmont, Italy that contains high levels of procyanidins which work like antioxidants to protect the heart and cardiovascular system. It has a fruity flavor and contains melatonin, which is a sleeping aid.
Terre del Barolo Vinum Vita Est Barolo 2016 is a red with lots of cherry and berry character with some watermelon and strawberry, too. It has a medium to full body, and has a bright and clean flavor.
Tempranillo is a red wine made from the grape of the same name, which is native to northern Spain. Like other red wines on this list, Tempranillo contributes to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and improving heart health, thanks to the presence of antioxidants and fiber in this wine.
R. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Tondonia Reserva 2010 is a vibrant red wine. According to Wine Spectator, “This elegant red is fine and creamy on the palate, with notes of sun-dried cherry, iron, spiced orange peel, graphite and mocha that slowly unfurl. A bit high-toned on the nose as well as loaded with mineral aromas. Muscular tannins are deftly integrated, while savory dried mint and eucalyptus notes play on the lasting finish.”
Enjoy Red Wine For Heart Health
When considering healthy lifestyle choices you can make, drinking red wine is an easy addition to work into your daily routine. Learning about wines and the different varieties can be a fun and tasty journey to take. There are lots of resources online to help you find wines that you will enjoy. Just remember to drink in moderation. Drinking too many alcoholic drinks will negate the health benefits. And don’t drink if you have health conditions that alcohol use could worsen.