"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world" - E. Hemingway. This is one of my favorite quotes and I whole heartedly agree. I view wine as multilayered, complex and incredibly intriguing. To me wine represents more than just a bottle of red, white, pink or bubbly. Making a bottle of wine from start to finish, is simply an art in my book.
There aren't many places that bring me as much joy as wineries do. I love seeing berries growing on the vine among the elements as they develop their unique profile, watching the process of making wine and ultimately tasting the fruit of all the labor that goes into creating it.
I've always enjoyed drinking wine but the first time I stepped foot in a winery back in 2012 was when my love affair with wine really started. I wanted to learn the process, the how, the why the when. I took a course on wine and set out to read the Wine Bible and felt myself completely enthralled with everything wine related. Just saying the word wine, makes me happy.
Now I realize most people are simply wine drinkers and will not swoon over every bottle of wine they drink but I think it's good to stop and think about how this magical beverage can bring us more than just joy.
Wine is how old?
The oldest fermented beverage contained honey, rice and fruit and was recorded as dating back 9000 years ago according to a University of Pennsylvania scientist. But the introduction of what we know as wine made from grapes did not appear until roughly 7400 years ago in the areas of Armenia and Georgia.
What makes wine so special?
Without getting all scientific-ey? Is that even a word? Anyway, think about what happens when you get ready to open a bottle of wine. The ritual of it. Choosing the bottle, getting your corkscrew, opening the bottle, taking that first smell, pouring the glass, sticking your nose in the glass and taking the first sip. Ahhhh. We don't need science to tell us that that's just freaking amazing. No, this is a feeling. A feeling which humans have felt for thousands of years when drinking wine.
But aside from the immense pleasure drinking wine brings, there's the collecting aspect that some people are drawn to. With age, wine changes in structure and taste. The anticipation of what a particular bottle of wine holds is half the mystique.
I've read somewhere that wine is like the Goldilocks of the nutrition world. Too much can really hurt you and too little may not allow you to reap all the benefits that wine has to offer. Like everything else in life, it's all about moderation. If anyone is at risk for developing any kind of dependence it is certainly not recommended that you start drinking wine. But if you already drink alcohol on a moderate level, then I think incorporating wine into your life, may provide some benefits.
Health Benefits of wine
- Promotes longevity: A 2013 study looked at how wine, specifically red wine can promote longevity. The compound resveratrol that's found in the skin of grapes has been showing to improve health. "Mounting evidence has demonstrated that resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of grapes as well as in peanuts and berries, increases the activity of a specific sirtuin, SIRT1, that protects the body from diseases by revving up the mitochondria, a kind of cellular battery that slowly runs down as we age."
- May help to combat depression: A study from Spain which was published in BMC Medicine journal looked at 2,683 men and 2,822 women over a 7 year period findings showed that most people who consumed 2-7 glasses of wine a week, were less likely to suffer from depression.
- Reduced chance of heart disease: The tannins in red wine contain flavanoids called procyanidins. These have shown to to protect against heart disease. The French are known for being one of the countries with the lowest incidence of heart disease. It may not be a coincidence, as wines from the Southwest in the region of Gers, are ones that contain the highest amounout of procyanidins.
- Fights weight gain: A Purdue study found that a compound in red wine called piceatannol which is similar in nature to resveratrol, may in fact be able to block an immature fat cells from developing and growing. Once ingested, resveratrol converts to to piceatannol in the body. "Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells."
- Anti-inflammatory properties: In this review resveratrol is shown to slow the progression of the inflammatory process in the body by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory agents. In addition to suppressing the inflammatory response, resveratrol has also shown to promising results for age related human diseases.
Wine as digestive aid?
That's right, good people, you read correctly. I don't need science to tell me that my digestion is optimal when I pair my dinner with wine. I know how I feel. But to back me up, I did find this New York Times article that supports my claim. Another study in the the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consumption of two glasses of dry red wine, increased the level of Bifidobacteria in middle aged men. Bifidobacteria play an important role in reducing the gut's permeability, also known as leaky gut.
How to choose wine
This can be tricky if you're just starting out but don't sweat, there's lots you can do. Once upon a time, I used to pick wine because I liked the label (You know you've done it too). But here are some things that may help:
- Read the back of the bottle: This will generally highlight the wine's profile, such as fruity, bold, big tannins, hint of smoke, dry, oaky, crisp, etc.
- Ask for recommendations: Most wine stores have a wine expert who will be able to help you select wine based on food you're pairing it with or your specific preference.
- You do get what you pay for, sometimes: This is not always the case but if you're buying a bottle for under $10, don't expect to be swept off your feet. Once you get above that price range you can go anywhere with it. But you don't have to drop $50 every time you get a bottle of wine. There are plenty out there that can be quite impressive in the $13-$20 range. If money is no object, then the sky's the limit and you're probably not reading this blog.
- Use resources: Vivino is a great app you can download right on your phone that can help you figure out a wine based on other people's recommendations. The app improves the more people use it. Here is a good wine chart that may also help even though it's pretty involved. This site is also fantastic for everything wine related, including pairing with food.
Tricks to making your wine taste even better
- Decanter your wine: Not only does it look beautiful but it will enhance the taste of your wine. You can find one here.
- Aerator: I use this one and really like that you can do one glass at a time or as much as you want.
- Right Temperature: Nothing will ruin a wine like the wrong temperature. Too warm, and it will be too alcohol forward, too cold and it pretty much numbs your mouth. Ideal temperature for white wine is around 45 degrees and red around 60 degrees. Both wines do well if they stay in these temperature ranges. If you're not ready to invest in a wine fridge, keep your wine in the door of your regular refrigerator, especially in the summer months. If you have more than a few bottles, I would recommend storing them in the basement (if you have access to one).
- Quick cooling in freezer: If you just bought a bottle of wine and want to drink it right away, take a few pieces of paper towel, wet them and wrap them around the bottle. Stick the bottle in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
And I'll leave you with this: "Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle." Paulo Coelho