What is the healthiest wine to drink?

Which wine is healthy and best for you? With all the sensationalist, misleading headlines about wine and beer causing cancer, this is a very popular question at the moment. There are two parts to the answer – firstly which wine has actual health benefits, and secondly which wine has the least negative effects! In my usual waffling manner I’ll answer part two first.

Wine is permitted by law to have upto around 80 different chemicals added. The EU lawmakers justify this by saying that wine is such a wide and varied subject with thousands of different grape varieties, unlimited different microclimates, weather patterns, producers, production methods……..that they need the flexibility to use these chemicals to help correct potential problems. Unfortunately the truth is that cheap, mass produced wines are full of these chemicals and contain high levels of sulphites which are believed to cause mouth, throat and abdominal cancers as well as asthma of course. So no mass produced wine is good for you. In fact they are likely to all be very bad for you! That horrendous hangover isn’t caused by the alcohol – it is caused by the cocktail of chemicals in the wine. If it makes you feel that bad consider what harm it must actually be doing to your body. Drink some sulphite free wine (in moderation) and you will wake up without a hangover and actually feel healthy in the morning.

So which wine is actually good for you?

There is a lot of talk about Resveratrol, nature’s most powerful anti oxidant, which is found in grape skins. Resveratrol actively neutralises the harmful free radicals in your body which cause cancer. The Polyphenols are also attributed to be good for the heart, and help lower bad cholesterol. These are both found in small quantities in good red wine, so in theory good red wine is the healthiest choice. Renowned physician and winemaker Dr Phil Norrie who produces Resveratrol enhanced wines, says that “people who regularly drink good red wine are less likely to die of any cause (illness – it won’t stop you being hit by a bus!) than people who don’t”. He has researched the link between wine and health for 30 years and has had many articles pubished. In fact in this article Dr Phil Norrie states – and quotes medical research from many of the world’s leading medical professionals – that drinking good red wine can have the following benefits. It is a staggering report, backed up by medical eveidence – well worth a read!
1. Reduced vascular disease which kills up to 50% of us resulting : –
(a) Reduced Coronary Heart Disease by up to 50%(9)
(b) Reduced Ischaemic Stroke (Ischaemic strokes account for 90-95% of all
(c) Reduced Deep Vein Thrombosis by up to 50% (11)
(d) Reduced Ostoeporosis (12)
(e) Increased Intellect in the Elderly(7)
(f) Reduced Macular Degeneration (a common cause of blindness) by up to 34%(8)
(g) Reduced Renal Failure (up to 50% of renal failure due to Vascular disease)(13)
2. Tonic – wine contains many substances including most vitamins, minerals, trace
elements, proteins and carbohydrates (1)
3. Fat and cholesterol free source of carbohydrate(1)
4. Reduced cancer because the Antioxidants in wine block free radicals causing
damage to the cell’s nucleus (12)

5. Reduced blood pressure (15)

6. Antiseptic due to alcohol and more importantly polyphenols (16)

7. Increases morale and appetite – nursing home and hospital patients (25) + (5)

8. Wine contains Quercetin, Resveratrol and Epicatechin, which are Nature’s most

Potent antioxidants and also act as anti-carcinogens (17)

9. Reduction in colds / URTI by up to 85% (18)

10. Diabetes reduced by up to 50% because the antioxidants reduce insulin resistance.

Dry wine best alcoholic drink that is allowed with diabetes as all the sugar has

been converted to alcohol.(19)

11. Reduced gallstones by up to 30% (20)

12. Reduced kidney stones by up to 39% (21)

13. Reduced Alzheimer’s disease and mult infarct (stroke) forms of dementia by up to


14. Reduced Parkinson’s disease (22)

15. Improved digestion (5)

16. Reduced H. Pylori infection of the stomach and duodenum leading to reduced

Ulcers (23)

17. Improved physical and intellectual condition in the elderly (7)

18. Reduced Hepatitis A (24)

19. Reduced stress and depression (25)

20. Reduced essential tremor (26)

21. Reduced tooth decay (27)

22. Reduced cancer of the prostate by upto 50%

 Read Dr Phil’s full article here (4 pages)

However the vast majority of red wines, even the expensive ones, still have chemicals added – sulphites in particular. Even EU Organic wine, legally labelled as “wine made from organically grown grapes” as it is only the actual grape growing which is certified, still has chemicals including sulphites added at the winemaking stage. And would you believe so do BIODYNAMIC certified wines! They are permitted to contain up to 90 mg/l of sulphites!

How do you find a good red wine which doesn’t contain these sulphites?

SoLo S02 Navitas is a sulphite free red wine made without the addition of any chemical substances at any stage right from the planting of the original vines, right through to the bottling of the wine. It is 100% natural – but also a beautiful wine in it’s own right. Due to the unique methods used in the vineyard and in the cellar SoLo S02 Navitas is packed full of natural anti oxidants and is very possibly THE healthiest wine available anywhere. You can buy it from specialist low sulphite/sulfite free wine online retailer www.goodwineonline.co.uk who have a good selection of great tasting, healthy sulphite free wines. They offer a case deal on the SoLo S02 Navitas.

Update 23rd March 2012

Solo are about to launch their much anticipated white wine in the UK at last! “Aurum Natura” (natural gold) is a blend of 65% Chardonnay, 30% Marsanne and 5% Viognier. It’s made from grapes grown on vineyards which have never used any chemicals. The wine was made without any chemical intervention too, except for a tiny splash of sulphites (only 6% of the permitted level!) at bottling to retain the wine’s natural acidity.Solo Aurum Natura is a pure, natural wine with delicious full fruit flavours and a crisp acidity on the dry finish – the first wine of it’s kind anywhere. It’s also vegan friendly and gluten free, and is perfectly safe even for sulphite intolerant people. It’s available to buy online from www.goodwineonline.co.uk

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  • Paul

    Very interesting, Thanks. Question tho. How do you know the content of each of the wines as there is no label of ‘ingredients’ and also, how do you know which wines in the supermarket are mass produced. Is it the ones with the crappy named labels on… just “Merlot” or Chilean”.


  • admin

    Hi Paul, we don’t know the ingredients because large scale producers deliberately avoid listing them on the labels for fear of people realising what they are actually drinking! The EU insists ingredients must be listed on foodstuffs – but makes an exception for wine! (although it is classed as a “food” for all other legislation). Small scale producers generally just don’t bother although they often have relevant information on their websites as they are proud of their production methods.

    ALL supermarket wine is mass produced, and therefore full of chemicals. It is a matter of economics. The supermarkets (including multiple grocers like The Co-Operative) sell about 25,000 000 bottles of wine every day between them. For them to even consider listing a wine it has to be produced on a very large scale as they need continuity of supply. Imagine dealing with thousands of small wineries producing a few thousand cases each – impossible for a supermarket selling 200,000 cases a week!

    If you want good wine made without excessive amounts of chemicals you need to buy from smaller wine merchants who source their wines from small producers. Also consider the price – excise duty & customs tax is £1.85 plus VAT per bottle, so a bottle retailing at £3.99 is about £2.50 in taxes plus £1 profit for the supermarket, leaving about 40 pence to pay for the glass bottle, labelling, transport and producer’s margin. The wine is worth about 5 pence! To get healthy well made wine (which also tastes good) you realistically need to spend upwards of £7 per bottle.

  • FJ

    Just a note, Sulphites are not to be confused with Sulfates. The former, SO2, is actually a naturally ocurring byproduct of yeast fermentation of the must, the later is a generic term for several Sulfur based pesticides used in agriculture.

    SO2 in wine is used to sterilize and kill any potentially harmful bacteria in the must to avoid spoiling the wine, and has been used in wine production since the early 20th century. As it’s a byproduct of yeast fermentation (in very small amounts), it was considered a natural product.

    As far as I’m aware (please prove me wrong if so), there is no evidence of any harmful effects of sulphites, although wines to state in their labels when they contain sulphites.

    I will keenly try out this sulphite free wine however :)


  • admin

    Yes, I will happily prove you wrong regarding sulphites. Over 30 people died in the USA in the 1970s, when they ate from a salad bar which had been sprayed with a sulphite solution to keep it looking fresh! Now that is not harmless! This led to the US Government introducing legislation that products containing sulphites must state so on the label – including wine of course. The sulphites you talk about are naturally produced during fermentation and are “bound” sulphites and are inert and harmless, although they can cause headaches in large quantities. The man made sulphites which are added as a preservative are either “molecular” sulphur dioxide (SO2, appearing on labels as E220) or Sodium Bisulphite NaSO3 (or potassium bisulphite KHSO3), E228. The molecular form is very aggressive searching for oxygen and therefore great as an anti oxidant, but can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive people, sometimes fatally. Sulphites have been linked to throat, mouth and stomach cancer – but never proved of course! They’ve also been linked to causing asthma – but definite proof is elusive again! No medical body ever states such things as fact, they always qualify there conclusions for fear of future repurcusion. As people are all different and there are so many varying factors, it’s basically impossible to reach a definite 100% conclusion. I believe sulphites, like anything else, are bad for us in large doses. Mass produced wines contain large amounts of man made sulphites, so I only drink low sulphite wine. Incidentally I haven’t had a hangover for years!

  • http://n/a Andrew BSc (Chem)

    There is some confusion over chemical terms here.
    SO2 (sulfur dioxide) a gas is used in across the food industry as a preservative. Though sulphites (as we spell it in England) are commonly used in the wine industry (particularly as sodium sulphite – or sodium metabisulphite) have been clearly associated with asthmatics, there is little proven damage to the majority of wine consumers. Sulphites SO3- (minus should be a ‘superscript’) are less frequently cited as a hangover cause than excessive consumption – hence the gorgeously unscientific idea to try sulphite free wine “in moderation” (the moderation is what really counts not the sulfite).
    Happy (red) wine drinking.

    PS look up resveratrol and you’ll soon realise that despite the hangover, wine is great for longevity :)

  • admin

    I think your terminology explains a lot about the scientific and medical aspects to wine. “Proof” is exceptionally hard to come by as people are all individual, with different make ups, consuming different wines and foods in different amounts at different times. Firm hard evidence is nigh on impossible to come by, particularly as most people with a sulphite allergy don’t even realise they have one. Realistically we’re never going to have definitive proof on this issue.

    However one fact I can give you, from personal experience and those of colleagues, is that drinking chemical free wines doesn’t cause a hangover. Therefore the direct cause of a hangover is not the widely assumed “amount of alcohol consumed”. We drank 5 bottles of assorted Frey natural wines between 3 of us the other night including their Zinfandel at 15.5%, and woke up fresh as a daisy – no headache, no lethargy. Yet if I drink 1 bottle of mass produced wine I’m wrecked the following day. It may not be just the sulphites as there are over 80 different chemicals permitted in wines, and these cheap mass produced ones are full of them, but drinking sulphite free, chemical free natural wines is definitely a healthier option!

    Resveratrol is nature’s strongest anti oxidant and is naturally present in wines – so long as they haven’t been over processed. Dr Phil Norrie has pioneered a system for extracting resveratrol from grapes, concentrating it and reinserting it into his wines (he’s been a winemaker for 30+ years as well as a doctor) as a preservative, an alternative to sulphites. However the EU are still preventing it’s import into Europe. Dr Phil Norrie has written a fascinating paper on the health benefits of wine:

    Good natural wine such as the Frey wines we drank the other night, is extremely beneficial healthwise. Mass produced chemical infused wines are the exact opposite!

  • mike brown

    Hi. A lot of talk about sulphites and resveratrol. I was wondering which grapes are the healthiest and contain the most resveratrol? I’ve read before that cabernet sauvigon and pinot noir contain highest levels of resveratrol. Is this true? The other point I would like to make is that natural wines are not cheap. I know you get what you pay for, but it’s not always possible to drink natural wines. In recession hit times, may people have little choice but to drink mass produced rubbish. I’ll happily pay £7-£10 for a bottle but it gets more difficult for me over £10. I simply can not afford it; though I would love to only drink natural wines all the time. In addition, they are not readily available. They don’t exist in supermarkets. It’s more affordable for me to buy a single bottle in a supermarket than to spend £60+ on a case of wine. Fortunately, supermarkets like Waitrose do stock good wines. I recently had the Moonvine blend that was very nice and only £7.99. They also have the Hedonist but it’s more expensive (£13); though biodynamic I believe. I think if natural wines were more affordable then more people would drink them; and if companys like Waitrose got excited about them and promoted them.