For health-focused oenophiles, drinking red wine might be for the best.

By Kat Barclay, Photo by Gabi Phi

Drink this: red wine

Not this: white wine or rosé

Says who: Molly Austad, certified sommelier at Jeffrey’s of Austin, a fine-dining restaurant that specializes in French-American cuisine and features an extensive wine menu.

Why: The skins from red grapes contain both tannins and a number of antioxidants, including resveratrol, which may help prevent damage to blood vessels. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, Austad adds while this health benefit is a popular belief, “there is not enough evidence to state this as a fact.”

What are tannins? Tannins come from the skin of grapes and can add bitterness and astringency, or acidity, to the taste of a wine. The thicker the skin of the grape, the more tannin a wine has. “Wines with higher tannin, like cabernet sauvignon and nebbiolo are perceivably more dry than lower-tannin wines like zinfandel and pinot noir,” Austad says. “Have you ever had a sip of wine that turned your mouth into a cotton ball? That is tannin.”

What does certified organic mean? Organic wine means the grapes were farmed organically. American wines with a “certified organic” labe have no added sulfites, although Austad points out this isn’t necessarily better because wine with no added sulfites can go bad by the next day. “Many people hear the word ‘sulfites’ and think, ‘Yikes! I don’t want to be consuming that.’ The truth is a very small percent of the population experiences any reaction to sulfites, and those people have severe cases of asthma,” Austad says.

Could you have an allergy to wine? While there is no evidence that proves one can have an allergy to red wine, some people can experience a minor reaction to the amines, or naturally occurring chemicals, found in the grape skins. “If you have a hard time digesting nutrients and are sensitive to coffee and chocolate, red wine might not be for you,” Austad says.

Speak like a Somm

Also a certified sommelier at Jeffrey’s, Kendall Dinwiddie defines some key wine terms every amateur sommelier should know.

Acidity: The puckering sensation of tart, sour, bright, lively, fresh, racy, crisp and youthful fruit qualities that leave your mouth reacting with salvation.

Aeration: The introduction of oxygen to enhance the aromatic bouquet, or volatile compounds, in the wine. Think of it as a way to let the wine stretch it legs and warm up so you can better enjoy it.

Brut: A French term meaning dry. It’s usually associated with Champagne and sparkling wines.

Blend: A blanket term, as it can be applied to many elements in the winemaking process. This includes a blend of grapes, vineyards and vintages.

Blush: The English word for rosé. It was penned by Sutter Home, which was originally a red wine and white wine blended together.

Chaptalization: The addition of cane or beet sugar to wine before or during fermentation that can increase a wine’s alcohol level, body and balance. This is not considered a common practice in quality winemaking.

Dry: term typically used when there is no perceivable sweetness in a wine.


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