Wine’s good qualities

Wine: good for you. Wine: bad for you. Both statements can be true; let’s explore.

“Good for you” centers on heart benefits and quality of life. Wine, especially reds, are rich in polyphenols that dilate blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Resveratol, a natural phenol found in the skins of red grapes, sometimes is praised for reducing LDL cholesterol—“bad” cholesterol. The science on this is mixed because the positive effects found in wine drinkers may be the result of other factors. Which brings us to more proven positives of wine drinking, although they, too, are ambiguous.

Wine drinkers tend to be happier people who are more engaged with others. There is no question that happier people who engage with others are healthier, but are they happier because they drink wine or do they drink wine because they are happier people who engage with others?

Most wine drinkers report their enjoyment of wine comes from pairing of wine with other people and with food. Ask almost any wine drinker about their best wine, and they will tell a story of good wine, good food, and good friends.

Wine is the alcoholic beverage least-associated with alcoholism. Countries with the lowest incidents of alcoholism—France is the poster child—have the highest wine consumption. Countries with the highest incidents of alcoholism—Russia is the poster child—have the highest consumption of hard spirits and lowest wine consumption.

Wine’s intimate connection to food is a major reason for this statistic. Food dramatically tames alcohol’s bad boy side. Wine is savored and sipped amid enjoying food. Your liver can process about one wine glass an hour, a pace easily kept while eating. If you want to get drunk, on the other hand, line up liquor shots and bang away. You don’t sit back and swirl while musing about how the vodka pairs nicely with chicken pasta with Alfredo sauce.

Next week, the darker sides of wine, alas.

Tasting notes:

• Ruca Malen Aimé Sweet Moscato 2016: Sweet, but not cloying; targeted to Millennials who want to share vivid flavors while having a good time with friends. $8-11 Link to my review

• Bread & Butter Chardonnay 2016: Big oak, butter, vanilla, full bodied California chard. $12-15 Link to my review

• Amici Cellars Olema Chardonnay Sonoma County 2016: Chard for those who enjoy subtleness in oak, butter, vanilla. $14-17 Link to my review

Last round: National Wine Day: January 1–December 31.